The simple philosophy behind the concept of microfinance is to help the poor by leading them out of financial troubles. Beneath this great idea lies the inherent vulnerabilities of the sector towards opinion makers from among the probable investors and political parties. Meaningful partnerships are something that MFIs can make use of to counter the skeptics and more importantly open a flurry of new opportunities to the deprived class. Successful partnerships engaged by MFIs across the globe show that the essence of a partnership approach is to bring together complementary resources and skills from the partner organizations, order leverage on each partner's core strengths and address complex development problems that no one party can address alone. The success of Life Insurance business in Philippines, prostate in partnership with MFIs, is a glaring example. In the period between 2008 –'11, the number of lives covered grew by 145 percent. What mattered were the impact of these services on economic development, poverty reduction and the improvement of people's lives. Micro Development Finance (MDF) Team initiated by HP in Uganda in 2002, in association with MFIs was another example of successful partnership. As part of the e-Inclusion program HP focused on developing new business opportunities in emerging markets by partnering with MFIs in Africa.
ESAF Microfinance also has embraced the trend of developing meaningful partnerships to benefit our customers. Our partnership with SBI Life Insurance is one such association that has shown tremendous potential. In the last quarter of the previous financial year 2011-12, ESAF collected insurance premium worth ` 60 lacs. For facilitating money transfer to benefit our 5 lac plus members and the general public, who at times rely on money from abroad to meet their unforeseen needs, ESAF entered into partnerships with Western Union and Xpress Money. A few other similar partnerships are also on the anvil. In partnership with Micro Energy Credits, USA, ESAF encouraged the use of clean energy. The clean energy programs include products vital to the livelihood and well being of our clients like solar lighting, efficient and clean cook stoves, water purification and efficient housing. By entering into partnership with Nokia and Vodafone we empowered the business opportunities of entrepreneurs mainly women to help them expand their market and get information directly from the market right at the press of a button. Our association with Government programs like Swavalamban National Pension Scheme (NPS) and Jalanidhi Project also proved to be a hit.
Yes, I believe that cross-sector partnerships are the need of the hour. It is a tool that merits further exploration by microfinance institutions (MFIs), as such partnerships allow each player to emphasize on their strengths while curtailing down the limitations.