Meet CAURIE Microfinance in Senegal!
By Mary Moseley
CAURIE MF, Caisse Autonome pour le Renforcement des initiatives Economiques par la Microfinance, is a mid-size microfinance institution that serves over 15,000 clients in Senegal and as of March 31st 2008, has a loan portfolio just over $4mUSD. They are present in several regions of the country: Diourbel, Kolda, Louga, Thiès, and Ziguinchor. Their mission is to offer best practice micro-finance services to poor, female-owned micro-enterprises in primarily rural areas while investing in their own eventual financial autonomy.
CAURIE is the organizational offspring of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and its primary regional partner, Caritas Internationalis. After a decade of Microcredit activities in Senegal, CRS realized that as an NGO, it would not be able to operate effectively within the realms of Credit and Savings, nor would it meet the needs of the country’s growing Microfinance market. Caritas-Thiès and CRS-Senegal then joined forces to launch a Microfinance project utilizing their program experience and after 5 successful years, decided to officially establish CAURIE Microfinance in September 2005.
A monthly meeting at one of the Village banks established by Caurie.
As a Kiva Fellow in Senegal, I’ve therefore gotten a chance to learn a lot about CAURIE and would like to introduce them to you! Read on to learn a little more about this amazing organization.
I’ve been working and living at the CAURIE Headquarters since March 2008. The director, Mamadou Lamine Gueye, has all the makings of an amazing leader: hardworking, responsive, decisive, and a nice guy to boot. Mr. Gueye has Fatoumata Binta Daniff, an ex-loan officer and accountant, spearheading the Kiva loan processing from headquarters. Mrs. Daniff is incredibly hardworking and creates each loan profile with precision and care. I think that Kiva has partnered with CAURIE at a really interesting time. CAURIE is an emerging microfinance company – it is growing rapidly. The inclusion of Kiva into its loan funding process is sure to foster their planned growth as an organization.
It’s important to note that amidst massive growth and expansion, CAURIE’s Village Bank lending methodology remains faithful to the core concepts of microfinance and, in my opinion, succeeds because of it. CAURIE lends to groups of women who form village-banking groups. Once the women organize themselves, CAURIE provides microfinance training (savings and loan methodology), improving a woman’s chance of success from day one. CAURIE has over 275 Village Banks (VBs) in Senegal with between 35 and 60 women in each. VB’s can get started in a variety of ways. CAURIE will sometimes send representatives out to villages to offer their services. Other times, groups of women approach CAURIE asking to set up a bank in their village. To begin, several informational meetings are held between CAURIE staff, the village leaders and the future borrowers. Within each Village Bank, the women split up into Solidarity Groups of between 3 and 10 women. In lieu of putting up collateral for loans, they agree to be held responsible for their fellow solidarity group members’ loans. Solidarity Groups are one of the reasons CAURIE’s loan default rate is 0% to date.
Caurie staff, Mary & clients during a monthly meeting at one of the Village banks
CAURIE’s loans are usually for a duration of 6 months and repaid by one single bulk payment at the end of the cycle. Although payments are made at the end of each loan term, the Village Banks meet monthly. During the meeting, each woman is called up to present her deposit into her savings account. Loan payments are also made in front of the group. At each monthly meeting, the members can opt to take out small loans from their Village Bank’s savings account. These monthly loans are very small and not related to the larger loans that CAURIE and Kiva lenders fund. But, small amounts like $20 US can be helpful in these women’s lives, and at each monthly meeting many of them choose to borrow a small sum to be repaid in full the following month.
Caurie staff visiting a client of a Village bank.
All women are welcome into the program and allowed a first loan of up to approximately $60 USD for a 6-month loan term. After the first loan, each borrower’s credit limit is evaluated and re-calculated based on her repayment history, their savings account balances and their experience with loans. With each 6-month cycle, the women have an opportunity to build their credit and take a larger loan or remain at whichever borrowing level is comfortable for them. I’ve met with many of CAURIE’s borrowers and loan officers. I’ve attended several monthly meetings and met with the elected management committee at each bank. The management committees are elected by the VB and are VB members themselves. All of these have been incredibly positive experiences, without exception. I believe in CAURIE’s methodology and I highly respect the hard work of the staff and the dedication of their borrowers.
Both CAURIE and the Microfinance sector in general in Senegal are growing rapidly. To date, there are over 600 microfinance institutions in the country. The beauty of Microfinance in Senegal is that it reaches out to typically under-served rural areas as opposed to traditional banking, which is primarily focused in urban areas. CAURIE is growing its loan portfolio, opening more Village Banks, and will be expanding its services to include micro-insurance this summer!
*This blog was posted on behalf of Mary Moseley*