With the innovation of micro-financing, there is a now a powerful way to help many millions around the world finance their small business ventures, improve their homes, and come back after a natural disaster, but institutions will need to do their part in order reach the people in need, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan told a symposium of experts in Geneva today.
“A new mindset is taking hold. Where once the poor were commonly seen as passive victims, microfinance recognizes that the poor people are remarkable reservoirs of energy and knowledge,” Mr. Annan told the gathering, which was held at the offices of the World Meteorological Organization.
In today’s world, where some countries have less than one bank branch per 100,000 people and most people lack a bank account, microfinance is also “an untapped opportunity to create markets, bring people in from the margin, and give them the tools with which to help themselves,” he said.
The Secretary-General called for scaling up the practice “without losing sight of the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society.”
Toward that end, he called for increased commercial involvement.“I hope financial institutions will continue to show that they are true entrepreneurs, and invest robustly in this line of business,” he said.
The International Year of Microcredit is being marked throughout 2005, with more than 90 governments undertaking related initiatives.