Microfinance refers to a variety of financial services that target low-income clients, particularly women. Since the clients of microfinance institutions (MFIs) have lower incomes and often have limited access to other financial services, microfinance products tend to be for smaller monetary amounts than traditional financial services.
These services include loans, savings, insurance, and remittances. Microloans are given for a variety of purposes, frequently for microenterprise development.
The diversity of products and services offered reflects the fact that the financial needs of individuals, households, and enterprises can change significantly over time, especially for those who live in poverty. Because of these varied needs, and because of the industry’s focus on the poor, microfinance institutions often use non-traditional methodologies, such as group lending or other forms of collateral not employed by the formal financial sector.
MIX recognizes many general definitions of microfinance, but for analysis purposes, employs a functional definition:
Microfinance services – as opposed to financial services in general – are retail financial services that are relatively small in relation to the income of a typical individual. Specifically, the average outstanding balance of microfinance products is no greater than 250% of the average income per person (GNI per capita).
Microfinance institutions currently operate in over 100 countries, serving more than 92 million clients. To see the latest statistics on the microfinance industry and access in-depth data on microfinance institutions around the world.