The predecessor of the Microfinance Association (MFA), the Microfinance Working Group for the Lao PDR (MFWG), was founded in May 2007 by a group of micro-finance practitioners as an informal platform to exchange experience, represent micro-finance sector interests and coordinate donor activities. From 2008 onward, the group was managed by two Co-Chairs (one national, one international) who worked on a voluntary basis. In 2010, a new Board was elected consisting of two Co-Chairs and one Treasurer, which started reactivating and restructuring the network. Subsequently, the two Co-Chair positions were replaced by a single Chair position filled by a Lao national. The international Co-Chair position was transformed into an advisory position to the MFWG as this would enable the Lao members to take on more responsibility and ownership. In January 2011, the MFWG set up a small secretariat with one full-time staff (office manager) as well as the (part-time) international advisor. Subsequently, in May 2013 the MFWG was able to hire a Director. As of April 2014, the office manager position was split up into an administrative secretary and an accountant position. In October 2013, the MFWG obtained its temporary license as a non-profit association (NPA) from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA). As a consequence, its name changed to Microfinance Association (MFA). On 15th November 2013, the MFA held its first General Assembly. At this meeting, the association members discussed and approved the MFA’s by-laws and elected the members of the Board of Directors and Audit Committee. The MFA is the national micro-finance industry’s umbrella organization. It gathers micro-finance practitioners and other relevant stakeholders that share the ultimate goal of the association which is to improve access to appropriate and affordable financial services for poor and unbanked people. This goal is being pursued by enhancing sector coordination, transparency, sustainability, and quality of micro-finance services as well as by contributing to a conducive legal and regulatory environment. The MFA’s services focus on three core areas: knowledge management/research & representation, capacity building, and advocacy. Main services offered so far by the MFA include: brokerage and organization of training/workshops; processing and bench-marking of MFI performance data; dissemination of information, studies and good practices relevant for the sector; organizing feedback sessions for MFIs regarding policies, regulations, guidelines, etc. prepared by the regulatory and supervisory authority; information and guidance to potential (social) investors and linking up investors with member MFIs; conducting social audits for MFIs (CERISE SPI tool). MFA members encompass regulated micro-finance institutions (14 DTMFIs, 45 NDTMFIs, 15 SCUs and Network Support Organizations) as well as 9 donors, bi/multi-lateral agencies, INGOs, 3 service providers and 6 individual micro-finance experts. By the end of 2016, the MFA comprised 92 members including 74 MFIs. However, in terms of total loan portfolio and combined assets or total number of active borrowers, MFA members account for approximately 80% of the overall sector. The organization is presently being supported by the following funding agencies / technical assistance providers: ADA Luxembourg, SBFIC, GIZ, and UNCDF/UNDP.
The direct beneficiaries of this program are the 92 MFA member organizations, in particular the 74 member MFIs and their staff that benefit from all the services of the MFA (training/capacity building, knowledge management/research, representation, and advocacy).
The indirect beneficiaries are primarily the members/clients of member MFIs who should benefit from better quality services and products as well as an improved social performance management of their MFI. The indirect beneficiaries can be estimated more than 80,000