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MFIs

Is Pakistan’s microfinance sector serving women entrepreneurs?

The idea for looking into the issue of microfinance outreach to women in Pakistan had been of interest to the World Bank for some time.  Outreach of the microfinance sector to women borrowers had always been extremely low – hovering between 50 to 60 percent of borrowers.  Compared to the rest of the region, where we see outreach to women in the 90 percent range in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, it raised the question as to why similar targets could not be achieved in Pakistan.   We reviewed a number of  possible explanations, but none of them seemed satisfactory.  On top of that, Pakistan is probably one of the most progressive microfinance sectors in the World.  The central bank has developed the most enabling regulations possible, Pakistan continues to top the Economist Intelligence Unit  list of the most enabling regulatory environment, innovations in branchless banking and new modes of financial service delivery are being incubated here, and the microfinance network in Pakistan continues to be regarded as world class.  So, given all the positive attributes around the sector, why was it not possible to more effectively reach this important constituency?