The European Microfinance Week 2020 features over 50 events covering a broad variety of topics. Photo: Shutterstock
The 2020 edition of the European Microfinance Week (EMW) kicked off on Wednesday, presenting itself for the very first time in a digital format.
Considering the current global situation, it is no surprise that the EMW 2020 opening conference focused on the covid-19 crisis and its impact on the world of microfinance.
“This virus has in almost no time become a threat and it had a devastating effect on life especially for those in the most vulnerable situations” which is why offering affected individuals financial access is more important than ever, Christophe Schiltz from the foreign ministry said.
Amongst the challenges that the pandemic has created for the sector, Schiltz saw the need to facilitate economic recovery and guarantee consumer protection. However, he also highlighted opportunities created by the recent evolution, such as more focus on the necessary move towards digital finances which has been greatly accelerated by the health crisis.
Considering these increasing opportunities as well as the pitfalls, “now more than ever it is vital to connect and gather together the inclusive finance world to find solutions for everyone”, Christoph Pausch from the European Microfinance platform noted in his introductory speech. Pautsch pointed out that the digital format of the event opened up completely new doors in this regard, with “the opportunity to reach out all over the world”.
Calling for social and environmental consciousness
And indeed the global reach of this year’s EMW format has proven to be a huge asset in enabling speakers to contribute from all over the world. In this context, Indian veteran activist and founder of the Self-Employed Women’s Association, Ela Bhatt, who was amongst a group of elders brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007, was the first of many key note speakers. She was able to offer a unique perspective after having worked for decades in financial inclusion
Bhatt offered a critical eye-opening look at the current microfinance sector, beyond financial and economic matters and towards a more human and environmentally friendly approach. “The forecast has been on the micro person, the person with micro status in our society, but let us not forget the person.”
In this context, she also expressed mixed emotions with regards to digitalisation, saying that the challenge would be finding a middle path by localising and decentralising digital finance products and services.
Nevertheless, Bhatt ended her speech on a hopeful note stating that path to the future would be one of nurturance and relationships. “Our relationship nourish us all. We are under one sky, we breathe common air, we draw water from a common ground, we eat the produce from the same earth that nourishes all human beings. Let us acknowledge that bond between us and let us walk the path of building economic nurturance together,” she said.
A diverse selection of events
European Microfinance Week 2020 continues until Friday with a programme of around 50 events with a broad range of session formats including big plenaries, key notes, working sessions and launches of brand new publications. A variety of topics such as the impact of Covid-19, "Promoting Effective and Inclusive Savings", housing microfinance, climate change resilience, and customer protection will be discussed by experts, professionals, researchers, investors and rating agencies in the field of microfinances.