By Amaka Agwuegbo
EB-ACCION Microfi-nance, aÂ new microfinance institution formed through a partnership betweenÂ ACCION Interna-tional,Â a pioneer and leader in microfinance,Â and Ecobank, a leading independent pan-African banking group in Africa,Â has opened the doors of its first two branches in Douala, at the Mboppi and Congo markets.
EB-ACCION Microfinance will also be supported by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, which is making a 15 per cent investment; ACCION Investments in Microfinance, SPC (AINV) is taking a 30 per cent stake in the new institution.
EB-ACCION Microfinance has been established to offer microcredit and savings products to owners of micro-enterprises and other Cameroonians who are underserved by the nationâ€™s commercial banks.
Through partners, it will also offer microinsurance and money transfer services. Â In its first five years of operation, the institution expects to open 83,000 savings accounts, with total deposits of $36 million.
In the same period, the institution expects to serve 33,000 active borrowers with an outstanding loan portfolio of $37 million.
EB-ACCION Microfinance will leverage Ecobankâ€™s existing branch infrastructure, payment service and distribution networks to maximize operational efficiency and control costs.
A staff of approximately 50 young Cameroonians has been recruited, supervised by a team of senior managers, including ACCION staff.
Over the next five years, EB-ACCION Microfinance plans to extend operations to other cities in Cameroon, including Yaounde, Bafoussam, Garoua and Maroua.
If conditions allow, service may be extended in the following years to other countries in the region.
Credit operations will utilize an underwriting methodology used successfully by EB-ACCION in Ghana and by ACCION partners throughout the world, which assesses the customerâ€™s repayment capacity based on calculation of the household surplus rather than on traditional collateral.
Michael Schlein, president and CEO of ACCION, said, â€œAfter two years of successful partnership with Ecobank in Ghana and Nigeria, we begin work in Cameroon with tremendous confidence in our ability to provide opportunity and help entrepreneurs and working families to improve their living standards.
â€œEB-ACCION Microfinance is a testimony to our commitment to building inclusive finance in some of the worldâ€™s most challenging and underserved markets.â€
Arnold Ekpe, group CEO of Ecobank, said, â€œEcobank is committed to extending banking services to the low-income, small and micro entrepreneurs across the continent.
â€œWorking with our partner, ACCION, we have made progress in other parts of Africa.
â€œThe launch of EB-ACCION Cameroon marks the beginning of our objective to reach out to the underbanked population in Central Africa.â€
Founded in 1973 in Brazil, ACCIONâ€™s partner microfinance institutions today are providing loans as low as $50 to poor men and women entrepreneurs in 23 countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the United States. In the last decade alone, ACCION partners have disbursed more than 28.5 million loans totaling $23.4 billion; 97 percent of the loans have been repaid.
Incorporated in 1985, Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) the parent company of the leading independent pan-African banking group in Africa currently operates in 29 African countries.
Ecobank is a full-service bank providing wholesale, retail, investment and transaction banking services and products to governments, financial institutions, multinationals, international organizations, medium, small and micro businesses and individuals