Despite being cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019/2020 academic year was an eventful year for the LSESU Microfinance Society. Here’s a look at what we did over the academic year:
Microfinance Crash Course
From October to November 2019, we invited Sadru Akbarali, former senior programme manager for Aga Khan Agency, over for the fourth consecutive year to give an enriching 5-session crash course on Microfinance. Starting from the origins of microfinance and ending with the opportunities and challenges the field faces today, Sadru provided a comprehensive overview of the fundamentals of microfinance.
Speaker Event: “Fighting Economic Disparity: Financial Literacy and Microfinance”
In December 2019, Satyaki Dhar and Ankur Chopra from the UK Chapter of RangDe took time out of their busy schedules to give us a presentation about RangDe’s endeavours to alleviate poverty in rural India, in particular their Swahbimaan Initiative. We learnt about the importance of empowering the rural poor not only through financial services but also by providing them with the skills and knowledge needed to make informed financial decisions.
Ankur Chopra (left) and Satyaki Dhar (right)
Panel Event: “Impact Investing: Using Finance For Positive Change“
Also in December, in collaboration with LSE’s Impact Investing Society and Green Finance Society, we hosted a lively panel about the growing field of impact investing. Our panel included Dr Phyllis Santamaria, Co-Creator and Founder of Learning Without Borders, Christopher Toy, Wealth Manager at Tribe Impact Capital, and Graham Smith, Director of HSBC’s Sustainable Finance Unit.
Christopher Toy (left), Graham Smith (middle) and Dr Phyllis Santamaria (right)
Microfinance Consulting Initiative
In the Lent Term, we kicked off our consulting initiative with two projects from RangDe UK. For the first project, the team conducted research and analysis of the investing behaviour of microfinance funds. The second project involved researching and reaching out to prospective companies for partnership.
Panel Event: "Microfinance For Poverty Alleviation"
In January, we worked together with the UN Society to host a panel including Dr Phyllis Santamaria from LearningwithoutBorders, Dr Sohini Kar from LSE and Dr Caroline Schuster from Australian National University (ANU). Exploring the question of whether microfinance has been successful in poverty alleviation, the panel was in agreement that results varied over a multitude of contexts, and that microfinance initiatives were more successful in managing rather than eradicating poverty. The numerous pitfalls of microfinance were brought up, including the financialisation of poverty and the propensity for microloan applicants to be subjected to social engineering. The panel also considered the effectiveness of microinsurance programmes and compared the for-profit and not-for-profit models of microfinance.
Thank you to all our speakers and participants for making AY 2019/20 a fruitful year for our society!