ACCION Partners with Ecobank to Expand Microfinance In West and Central Africa

Dec 2006
Africa , December, 05 2006 - Global microfinance pioneer ACCION® International today announced a partnership agreement with the Ecobank Group, the leading independent regional bank in Africa, to expand microfinance in West and Central Africa.

ACCION will work with Ecobank to develop a regional banking platform that will deliver financial service products to micro- and small entrepreneurs in African countries within the Ecobank network. These products may comprise loans as low as $100, savings and insurance products, and related financial services, all designed to help lift people out of poverty. Ecobank currently operates in 13 West and Central African countries.

Over the next three to five years, ACCION will work with Ecobank to develop a comprehensive mix of tailored financial products that will be distributed through its existing branch network, and introduce alternative delivery channels such as ATMs, point-of-sale terminals and cell phone banking.

“This agreement opens up expansive, new frontiers in our operations,” said Carlos Castello, ACCION executive vice president and head of international operations. “Thanks to the bank’s infrastructure and local knowledge, our partnership should quickly extend the footprint of microfinance across the region, allowing us to serve many more micro-entrepreneurs, much more quickly.

“It underscores ACCION’s commitment to bringing large banks into the field of microfinance,” Castello continued. “We believe it could set an example for effectiveness in countries where the need for access to finance by the majority of people is greatest, and that it could significantly impact the banking landscape of West and Central Africa.”

Arnold Ekpe, group CEO of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI), added, “We are extremely pleased to be establishing this partnership. ACCION is renowned worldwide for the quality of its services in the fight against poverty, and this alliance will significantly boost our ability to deliver microfinance services throughout the region.”

About Ecobank Group

The Ecobank Group was set up as a regional West African bank in 1985 and began operations in 1988 in Togo. Now present in 13 West and Central African countries, it employs more than 3,500 staff and has total assets of approximately $3 billion. It is pursuing a pan-African banking strategy, and has recently agreed to acquire a bank in Chad and open two new subsidiaries in Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau, which will increase its regional coverage to 16 countries. Ecobank Group is widely acknowledged as the leading independent regional banking group in Africa.

About ACCION International

ACCION International is a private, nonprofit organization with the mission of giving people the financial tools they need – microenterprise loans, business training, and other financial services – to work their way out of poverty. A world pioneer in microfinance, ACCION was founded in 1961 and issued the first microloan in 1973 in Brazil. ACCION International’s partner microfinance institutions today are providing loans as low as $100 to poor women and men entrepreneurs in 22 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and in the U.S. In the last decade alone, ACCION partners have disbursed more than 14 million loans totaling more than $9.4 billion; 97 percent of the loans have been repaid. Selected for the fourth consecutive year for its pioneering approaches to poverty alleviation, ACCION was among 43 organizations awarded the 2007 Social Capitalist Award by Fast Company magazine.


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