Afghan Microlenders Also Take Deposits

Caitlin Liu has a wonderful story today on microfinance in Afghanistan; do check out the slide show, too. The bit which jumped out at me was this:

Usually run by non-profit groups, microfinance agencies offer loans to the poor without requiring collateral. They also provide other services, like savings accounts, to people not served by commercial banks.

This is huge, and very encouraging. Historically, one of the biggest problems with microfinance has been that they only offer loan products, and no savings products. After all, anybody can be a lender: if you ask me nicely I might even lend you a few bucks myself. But to take deposits you need to have a banking license, and you need to be regulated: there can’t be any risk that you’ll abscond with your savers’ money. In many developing countries, the bank regulators simply aren’t set up to oversee a patchwork of tiny microfinance shops, and I’d love to learn more about how the ones in Afghanistan became able to accept deposits.

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