Going micro

Published: Tuesday 15 August 1995

-- THE World Bank (WB) has devised a new strategy to improve the lot of the "poorest of the poor". Inspired by the success of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which lends small amounts mostly to women - to set up smallscale businesses, it has pledged to channelise tiny loans to developing nations through grassroot organisations. Till now it has succeeded in arranging around us $200 million for the project. The amount will be disbursed through non- governmental organisations over the next several years.

The donors met in Washington to formalise the structure of an official body which will coordinate the lending and to pour new resources in to the scheme. The group has been named the Consultative Group to' Assist the Poorest (CGAP) and includes African and Asian development banks, Canada, the European Commission, France, the Netherlands, a United Nations fund and the us. "This is the most important event in the world of micro-finance," enthuses Ismail Sergeldin, a WB vice-president and the chairman of the CGAP.

An estimated I billion people the world over are still living in back-breaking poverty and the WB sees micro-lending as an important complement to health and education projects it funds in developing countries.

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