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IFC, Switzerland Support Microfinance Institutions, Assist with Responsible Finance in Central Asia

Almaty, Kazakhstan, November 4, 2013 —IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is launching a project to increase access to finance for micro entrepreneurs. The project will help microfinance institutions (MFIs) introduce new products, strengthen their operations, and promote responsible finance, expanding the economy and creating jobs.
IFC, with the backing of Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), will help MFIs develop their services in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan as part of the Azerbaijan and Central Asia Micro and Responsible Finance Project. The project will also help MFIs lend responsibly through targeted assessments and, where necessary, IFC will conduct studies on market debt based on lessons learned in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  
“Switzerland has been actively supporting the region for many years,” said Martina Locher, Program Manager of SECO. “With the launch of the new initiative we will support the microfinance sector and promote responsible finance in Azerbaijan and Central Asia. This is of particular importance in a region where a big part of the population does not have access to finance.”
IFC launched the first phase of its Central Asia Microfinance Transformation Support Project in 2008. Now, with funding from SECO, IFC is implementing the project’s second phase in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan.
“Supporting microfinance and increasing access to finance for entrepreneurs is crucial to harnessing the potential of private enterprise in Central Asia,” said Natasha Goronja, IFC Program Manager. “IFC helps microfinance institutions develop financial products to reach out to more people in a cost-effective way.”
IFC previously assisted the eight largest MFIs in Central Asia on transformation strategies, facilitating more than $60 million direct foreign investments to the region. In the Kyrgyz Republic, Bai-Tushum and Partners became the first microfinance bank in the country. In Tajikistan, IMON International and FINCA Tajikistan successfully launched deposit operations, and Arvand significantly increased remittances. IFC’s clients altogether helped about 6 percent of the working-age population in Tajikistan, and about 7 percent in the Kyrgyz Republic to access microfinance financial services.  
About IFC
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector. Working with private enterprises in more than 100 countries, we use our capital, expertise, and influence to help eliminate extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity. In FY13, our investments climbed to an all-time high of nearly $25 billion, leveraging the power of the private sector to create jobs and tackle the world’s most pressing development challenges. For more information, visit
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About SECO
The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) is the Swiss competence center for all core issues relating to economic policy. SECO implements economic development cooperation with developing and transition countries with the aim of supporting the sustainable integration of these countries into the world economy and to promoting their economies in order to help reduce poverty. SECO is part of the Swiss Federal Department for Economic Affairs. Further information can be found at: or