The role of microfinance in Colombia, the challenges and opportunities of the sector’s digitization and the importance of supporting women’s economic independence were the main topics discussed in the forum “Microfinance for the progress of an enterprising Colombia”, organized by Bancamía, BBVA Microfinance Foundation’s local institution, on the occasion of its 10th anniversary.
“We accompany one million entrepreneurs with financial services and training so that they could improve their lives”, said Miguel Ángel Charria, executive president for Bancamía. More than half of them are women, 44% live in rural areas and the majority possess primary education, at best.
According to the Foundation’s CEO, Javier M. Flores, Bancamía’s story “is that of thousands of lives who work every day to build a better Colombia, and who are achieving it.” The journey is long, though: according to the latest official data (DANE), poverty affects 26.9% of the population, a condition that is affecting rural areas more, where the percentage reaches up to 36%.
María Noelia Zora was one of the forum participants who shared how her life has improved thanks to her arepa stand, and the courage that pushed her to open a coffee shop, with the help of the Foundation. “I’m a farmer, displaced by the armed groups. Bancamía was my ally, who gave me what I needed to prosper. I wasn’t able to study but I dreamt of a better future for my children, and who are now in the university.”
Continuing to serve hundreds of thousands of Colombians, who like her, make a daily effort to improve their lives, is the Foundation’s commitment for the coming years, especially when there are still more than 7 million microentrepreneurs in Colombia without access to the financial system. “We are facing a big challenge, which is to keep the focus and our strategy oriented towards making more contact with clients, as well as gathering more knowledge from them, while we leverage the immense possibilities offered by the digital revolution”, shared Javier M. Flores.
“Microfinance’s social impact is essential, an impact that improves lives. Thank you for having done so much for the Colombian women”
The Colombian institution is present in 84% of the national territory and gives special attention to women for experiencing more inequality in accessing financial services. According to Global Findex, only 42% of the Colombian women possess a bank account, compared to 49% of men. Marta Lucía Ramírez, vicepresident of the Republic, highlighted the Foundation’s work that contribute to the country’s development, “Microfinance’s social impact in essential, it’s an impact that improves lives. Thank you for having done so much for the Colombian women.” Other forum participants included senior representatives of international organizations such as UN Women, USAID and World Bank, among others.
Bancamía was created in October 2008, by merging two non-profit corporations focused on women, together with the BBVA Microfinance Foundation. It became the first microfinance bank in Colombia, and the first MFI of the BBVAMF Group, also present in Peru, Dominican Republic, Chile and Panama, along with five other microfinance institutions. “We are all writing a page in the history of financial inclusion in Latin America”, concluded the BBVAMF’s CEO.