|Sustainability of Micro-enterprise Credit Schemes in Kenya's Informal Sector (K-REP, 1993, 14 p.)|
In Kenya a financial systems approach is beginning to emerge with a group of effective implementing agencies to provide a framework for microenterprise credit based on increasingly successful group methodology. The programmes are beginning to operate not as isolated, donor-dependent projects but as part of the development of the financial system itself, commencing on the road to performing as viable financial intermediaries. The NGO programmes have begun to climb their way up the sustainability ladder at least towards short term sustainability though as yet run with external sources of funds.
Short term sustainability is being achieved through a commercial orientation, regular monitoring and evaluation of the various factors of performance costs and return on investment, internal efficiency and good performance of groups based on reliance and trust in them. Long term sustainability, that is the build up of domestically generated loan capital and the covering of total programme costs including training, is still in the distant horizon given that these NGOs are not able to perform the task of financial intermediation and to relent savings generated. Government legislative assistance is required to permit an arrangement to be worked out between the banks and NGOs which safeguards depositors savings and establishes a capital adequacy ratio and proper supervision, while also permitting the on-lending of funds.
One of the factors which has contributed to the take off of successful financial programmes for low-income entrepreneurs is the maturity, professionalism and competence of the Kenyans responsible for running these programmes, aware of Kenyan "ownership' of the programme and destiny. Self-reliance is being built on solid implementing capacity derived from modern management and management information systems.
Whilst independence from donor support is rightly aspired to, donor assistance will still be required for developmental activities, for building of implementing capacity and for research and experimentation with new models and systems. Self-reliance needs to be built on solid implementing capacity. It would be in the interest of the whole programme to ensure that the management changes, and standards of professionalism and modern record systems are applied.
Programmes focussed on finance for enterprise cannot ignore the expansion and development needs of their clients, the impact of loans and the development of entrepreneurship. The development of entrepreneurship and leadership in product development, market expansion and diversification is crucial in the long term if this sector is to perform the dynamic role in employment creation and economic expansion hoped for. Kenya is believed to have 350,000 micro and small scale entrepreneurs who form the base of the entrepreneur society. A proportion of that group require selection for training, skilling and grooming to initiate diversification, to introduce new technology and to embrace new markets. NGOs need to be involved in the graduation process, enabling its clients to obtain bank loans and opening up more dialogue with banks for enterprising clients with the assistance or credit referencing. NGOs could also perform a valuable role in organizing and networking a variety of training programmes, both practical and managerial, and disseminating information on different technologies and markets. The findings have shown that these services neither have to be provided for free nor necessarily provided by the programmes themselves. The greatest need is for information on what is available for its clients and some assistance in giving their clients access to that training and opportunities.
There is a role for better networking between NGOs involved in micro enterprise development not only nationally but Africa-wide. A recent USAID funded workshop that brought together practitioners from a number of Micro enterprise credit programmes in Africa who have distinguished themselves for their high level of performance established what was dubbed the "African Best Practises Association" that would co-ordinate and facilitate sharing of information on systems and methods of running credit schemes for micro enterprises efficiently. In Kenya a networking organization, the Small Enterprise Credit Association has been established. It is hoped that it will among other activities, lobby on behalf of the micro enterprise sector viz a viz the government, taking up such issues as amendment to the Banking Act which prohibits deposit taking and the establishment of some form of supervisory function so that these programmes can more fully perform a banking function.