Last week I had the opportunity to help MiCrédito welcome a MEDA Field Experience team to Nicaragua. As a MEDA intern, this was a chance to meet MEDA supporters from Canada and the United States, most of whom had never been to Nicaragua before. As I helped to interpret the management team’s presentation to our visitors, I felt proud to be involved in an institution that has had such an important impact on the lives of Nicaraguan micro-entrepreneurs. For me, MiCrédito’s work encapsulates the idea of MEDA’s “Business to the Power of 2” strategy. When the institution sees a need in the community, it uses enlightened business practices and entrepreneurial thinking to help people achieve their personal goals, thus building bridges out of poverty.
For example, MiCrédito noticed that both the commercial banking and microfinance sectors in Nicaragua had essentially ignored the need for financing among young university students. In seeing this need, the institution developed its MiCrédiEstudios program, which is now available at the national level in each of MiCrédito’s 11 branches. This product truly invests in the future of Nicaragua. University students are able to access financing for their final two years of university or college and they also have the opportunity to finance specialty, technical, and language courses, equipment and materials, postgraduate studies, and Master’s degrees. After they finish their degrees, the students also have the chance to apply for financing at a preferential interest rate to invest in entrepreneurial products related to their studies. This way, for example, a pharmacy student can not only become a pharmacist, she also has the chance to open her own pharmacy! So far, the MiCrédiEstudios program has benefitted more than 1000 students and has disbursed USD$ 1.25 million in loans.
But MiCrédito’s commitment to Nicaragua’s youth does not end with its loan products. Recently, I had the opportunity to see thoughtful, enlightened business practices in action as we celebrated the graduation of the second cohort of MiCrédito’s Diploma in Finance with an Emphasis in Microfinance. For the second time, MiCrédito’s management team spent its Saturdays teaching classes on topics from accounting to customer service to a group of approximately 60 students. These young people received full scholarships including weekly stipends from MiCrédito. During the work-week they participated in a coop program, learning the ropes as cashiers, loan officers, and customer service representatives in MiCrédito branch offices. By the end of the program, 29 young people had earned their diploma and the majority had been contracted by MiCrédito or other microfinance institutions.
Through this Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative, MiCrédito hopes to build the next generation of microfinance professionals in Nicaragua through transferring both technical knowledge and instilling ethical values. Their project really is Business to the Power of 2: it offers individuals with the tools needed to direct their own futures and leaves behind a larger network of knowledgeable and well-trained microfinance professionals that can continue to promote financial inclusion in Nicaragua!