RURAL FINANCE: MAINSTREAMING INFORMAL FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS
By Hans Dieter Seibel
Informal financial institutions (IFIs), among them the ubiquitous rotating savings and credit associations, are of ancient origin. Owned and self-managed by local people, poor and non-poor, they are self-help organizations which mobilize their own resources, cover their costs and finance their growth from their profits. With the expansion of the money economy, they have spread into new areas and grown in numbers, size and diversity; but ultimately, most have remained restricted in size, outreach and duration. Are they best left alone, or should they be helped to upgrade their operations and be integrated into the wider financial market? Under conducive policy conditions, some have spontaneously taken the opportunity of evolving into semiformal or formal microfinance institutions (MFIs). This has usually yielded great benefits in terms of financial deepening, sustainability and outreach. Donors may build on these indigenous foundations and provide support for various options of institutional development, among them: incentives-driven mainstreaming through networking; encouraging the establishment of new IFIs in areas devoid of financial services; linking IFIs/MFIs to banks; strengthening Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) as promoters of good practices; and, in a nonrepressive policy environment, promoting appropriate legal forms, prudential regulation and delegated supervision.
Key words: Microfinance, microcredit, microsavings。
1. informal finance, self-help groups
In March 1967, on one of my first field trips in Liberia, I had the opportunity to observe a group of a dozen Mano peasants cutting trees in a field belonging to one of them. Before they started their work, they placed hoe-shaped masks in a small circle, chanted words and turned into animals. One turned into a lion, another one into a bush hog, and so on, and they continued