Microfinance is dead! Long live microfinance! Critical reflections on two decades of microfinance policy and practice

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The rise of the financial systems approach has been central to the past two decades of micro finance practice which aimed to achieve sustainability through scale and building profitable institutions. This resulted in extensive debates over its ability to reach poor and very poor people. The approach rode the wave of the Washington Consensus which promoted economic reform and liberalization. Now the policy discourse has moved even further away from a poverty focus to advocate financial inclusion for the unbanked into the mainstream financial sector. On these terms micro finance seems to be dead. However, the diversity of approaches on the ground aimed at poor people and hard-to-reach rural areas, points to a survival of 'micro finance', albeit largely outside the mainstream of the Washington consensus. This article also discusses where these developments leave the women's empowerment agenda that has been so central to micro finance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-303
Number of pages13
JournalEnterprise Development and Microfinance
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009


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