By Dr. Khaled Al-Gazawi, General Manager, Grameen-Jameel
Amman, Jordan, on 19 November 2013
Your Majesty, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honored and delighted to be speaking at this important event to an important group of microfinance experts and practitioners. Grameen-Jameel would like to thank Mary Ellen Iskenderian and the team from Women World Banking for approaching us to be one of the sponsors of this important event. I am looking forward to hearing about many of your success stories and share with you the successes of Grameen-Jameel over the past decade.
It happens that this event coincides with our celebrations of Grameen-Jameel’s 10th anniversary. Yes, ten exciting years have passed since Mohammad Jameel challenged the founding team to bring life to his vision of tackling poverty through job creation in the Middle East and reaching one million borrowers through microfinance. These have been ten years of focused commitment to poverty alleviation, ten years of cooperation, hard work, and achievements with our Microfinance Partners across the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey. Finally ten years of deep friendship and partnership between the Jameel Family, various philanthropic vehicles such as ALJ-Community Initiatives, and the Grameen Foundation.
Empowered by the generosity and deep sense of social responsibility of the Jameel Family of Saudi Arabia, guided by the vision of Professor Muhammad Yunus, and the professional knowhow and expertise of the Grameen Foundation, this decade has seen Grameen-Jameel reach over 2.1 million borrowers through its partner MFIs in the MENA region and Turkey. As the first social business of its kind in the region, Grameen-Jameel provided US$ 24 million in guarantees that has leveraged more than US$ 56 million in financing through local banks in our 10 countries of operation. Grameen-Jameel also provided US$ 11 million in direct loans to our partner MFIs and has invested nearly US$ 9 million in technical assistance, support, and consultancies to MFIs to build up their capacity. Most importantly, Grameen-Jameel has set itself as a pioneer and a fine example to follow for all those keen on tackling poverty and unemployment in this part of the world.
Grameen-Jameel’s journey to support the Microfinance industry in this region has been very exciting, full of challenges, and full of milestones. Grameen-Jameel had the responsibility to support Sanabel, the Microfinance Network for the Arab countries, and financed the translation of many of the most important books and research material to Arabic. Additionally, Grameen-Jameel financed the translation of the Microfinance Gateway into Arabic in 2006.
We are proud of our two partnerships here in Jordan with MFW and Tamweelcom, but also extremely proud of all our partners in Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, Yemen, Tunisia, Turkey and Morocco.
Working in partnership with others is central to all Grameen organizations. My board member Alex Counts was a founding member of the Microfinance CEO Working Group, which is co-chaired by Women’s World Banking President Mary Ellen. Alex always encourages us at Grameen-Jameel to work collegially with others seeking to promote pro-poor microfinance, and he speaks highly of Mary Ellen’s leadership of the MCWG. We are always open to new ideas of how we can partner more effectively with global networks as well as those providing financial services to the poor, and anyone else in our ecosystem.
It is estimated that the microfinance market in the MENA region and Turkey is between 30 and 40 million people. Out of this number, less than 4M have access to credit. For our partners to be able to secure debt from other investors and commercial banks, a lot has to be done on so many ends: the regulatory environment, transforming MFIs into social businesses that can run on their own after they pay back their investment costs, and exchanging knowledge and information sharing to build the capacity of all players across borders. These are among the important governing rules of Grameen-Jameel, and will always be.
As with any form of change, there are both opportunities and risks. In the wake of the Arab Spring, Grameen-Jameel has continued to help and support our partners and we have even expanded by helping more partners in more countries. When the MF crisis hit Morocco, Grameen-Jameel was there to help provide continued financial as well as TA support and did not simply pull out of the market as many others did. For us, crisis is when sustainable support is needed most.
Our vision for the future involves exponential expansion over the next decade through continued financial and technical support, as well as expansion into new ways of increasing efficiency to help more and more people. Technological advances in mobile banking and increased access to rural and remote areas will help us help our partners reach the poorest and most vulnerable people.
Opening new markets and providing new services will include more and more people into an ever-expanding economic system, one that will improve livelihoods through green technology and solar power and will connect people in the most remote areas and open up new markets and industries.
At Grameen-Jameel we are looking for ways to involve other like minded investors and business people. We seek out other social investors who are interested in co-financing projects to explore and expand with us as we look for creative ways to include more people into the mainstream economy. It is only by this type of creative thinking and action that we will help to improve the quality of life for millions of people throughout the MENA region and Turkey.
Finally, we are thankful for the inspiration and leadership that we have through Professor Mohammed Yunus and his vision to put poverty in a museum through pro-poor microfinance and social business.
Dr. Khaled Al-Gazawi
About Women World Banking
The WWB conference brought together a global network of 39 financial institutions from 28 countries with other microfinance practitioners, investors, donors, and regulators working in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region. The conference was held under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah and included discussions on key issues in financial inclusion for low-income women featuring global and regional experts.