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At the NSP Advisory Council Meeting, front row, from left, Citi PAO Aine Shah with Advisory members journalist Humayun Gauhar, Chairperson Dr. Ishrat Husai, former Governor of the Central Bank; former CCO Zubyr Soomro and CEO PMN Mohsin Ahmed. Back row, from left CBM Azim Alvi, CHRO Sanam Kohati, Citi Strategic Planning Head Amena Arif, Citi Corporate Banking Head Aziz Rehman, Consumer Banking Head for NIB Bank Naseer Ul Hasan, Citi Compliance Head Yawer Shameem, CFO United Bank Aameer Karachiwalla, Citi Treasurer Saquib Ayub and F.I Head Mona N. Khan.

Citi-PMN’s Three-Year Microfinance Network Strengthening Program Completes Year One

Powerful advisory council meets to review progress against objectives

Islamabad – Microfinance has grown from a few, relatively isolated individual microfinance institutions (MFIs) in Asia and Latin America to a global movement with proven success. Its success is attributable to good repayment behavior among the poor and the financial self sustainability of the programs.

However of the 1.7 billion individuals without access to financial services in the world, existing MFIs are only able to collectively serve approximately 120 million households. While there is a significant potential demand, MFIs are challenged to increase supply due to lack of institutional capacity to keep up with rapid growth in terms of staffing, product development, MIS and management and poor integration into mainstream financial sector and regulatory system.

This was one of the key reasons behind the Citi Foundation led “Network Strengthening Program (NSP),” a US$11.2 million initiative with SEEP Network that aims to implement the program’s objectives of building capacity of microfinance providers and supporters – increasing the number of clients served annually and providing the poor with greater access to appropriate financial products and services in 12 countries, including Pakistan.

In Pakistan, Citi Foundation has partnered with the Pakistan Microfinance Network (PMN) and the NSP is overseen by a powerful and influential advisory board chaired by former Governor of the State Bank Dr. Ishrat Husain. The advisory panel includes CCO & MD Citi Pakistan Arif Usmani; Mushtaque Jindani, CEO IBP,;Naseer Ul Hasan, Consumer & Small Enterprises Group Head at NIB BANK; Aameer Karachiwalla, CFO at UBL; Zubyr Soomro, and Humayun Gauha,r eminent journalist. Others on the panel include Citi’s Consumer Business Head Azim Alvi, Head of Citi’s Corportae Bank Aziz Rahman, Head of Citi’s strategic Planning Amena Arif and Legal Head Khurshid Bhaimia.

The NSP’s first year was commemorated recently via a roundtable with the Advisory at a local hotel. The meeting highlighted the program’s achievements during this period against its goals and featured discussions on the plans for the next 2 years.

“We can only reach scale if microfinance is integrated completely in the mainstream financial sector,” said Syed Mohsin Ahmed, CEO of the Pakistan Microfinance Network (PMN) speaking at at the 1st Advisory Council Progress Update meeting. “While we have made great progress in terms of research, the establishment of a pilot credit bureau and the launch of a customer protection code for the local microfinance sector, we will need the support of our advisory to truly make inroads in terms of expansion.”

Dr. Ishrat Husain, former Governor of the State Bank, said "The Network Strengthening Program has gathered many significant milestones in the past one year to this end. This is commendable given the environment and the challenges confronting the financial sector in general. The program appears to be serious in delivering on its objectives; the PMN, Citi Foundation and Citi Pakistan are to be commended for this effort.”

CCO & MD Citi Pakistan Arif Usmani said, “The Microfinance Network Strengthening Program is Citi’s latest commitment to Pakistan’s microfinance sector. Spanning 3 years, the program’s potential for financial mainstreaming and experience-sharing is immense. We are not only facilitating planned interactions via our very able Advisory Board, but are also using our own human resources to assist the program with its objectives. Moreover, the NSP provides a single platform for information sharing across the 12 participating Microfinance Networks representing 60 countries, over 1,300 MFIs and microfinance organization members, and more than 19 million clients.”

Citi has been present in Pakistan for 47 years and has taken an active role in the promotion of initiatives aimed at expanding the microfinance sector. Besides organizing the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards Program since 2004 and arranging a training of trainers program titled ‘financial education for the poor’ in liaison with international NGOs “Microfinance Opportunities’”and “Freedom from Hunger,” it has awarded sizeable grants to Kashf Foundation, Tameer Foundation Trust, Thardeep Rural Development Program, Akhuwat and Acumen Fund. Citibank N.A Pakistan has also arranged the first commercial funding transaction for Kashf Foundation, paving the way for MFIs to access commercial funds in future.
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