The Microfinance Lunch Break is a biannual event in Brussels to keep the financial sector in Belgium up to date with news from the world of microfinance and microinsurance.


How can MFIs survive the pandemic storm ?
What will the recovery look like ?


by Daniel Rozas, Senior Microfinance Expert, European Microfinance Platform (e-MFP)



Antonique Koning, Senior Financial Sector Specialist, CGAP

Closing remarks by Karel Baert, CEO Febelfin.



The past 18 months have been a trying time for both microfinance clients and the financial institutions that serve them. Many poor households – and women in particular – have suffered large declines in income as a result of lockdowns, decreases in economic activity and trade, and the collapse of entire economic sectors, like tourism. The result has created the largest and deepest crisis in the nearly 50-year history of microfinance. Looking at the present situation and drawing on examples of crises over the past decade, the speakers will look at how microfinance clients and institutions have been coping with the pandemic and what the post-pandemic recovery might look like.


More info and the full video report.

The Poverty Stoplight. How to keep people at the steering wheel of their own future.

Martin Burt gave an online presentation live from Paraguay.

Dr. Martín Burt is a world-renowned social entrepreneur who has developed various anti-poverty and educational social innovations that are currently being implemented in five continents. He is the founder (1985) and CEO of Fundación Paraguaya, a social enterprise named Latin America’s most impactful and innovative development organization in 2018 by the Inter-American Development Bank. 
Dr. Burt is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship at the World Economic Forum, the Global Foodbanking Network, and Teach a Man to Fish. In public service, he has served as Chief of Staff to the President of Paraguay, was elected Mayor of Asunción, and was appointed Vice Minister of Commerce. 
Dr. Burt has written books on economics, development, municipal government, poetry and education. His latest book “Who Owns Poverty?” was published in September 2019. 
He has received awards from organizations including Avina Foundation, Skoll Foundation, Schwab Foundation, Synergos, Eisenhower Fellowship, Inter-American Development Bank, World Innovation Summit for Education, and Nestlé. He holds a PhD from Tulane University and is a Visiting Professor of Social Entrepreneurship at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Distinguished Visiting Professor at University of California, Irvine.
The Stoplight is a tool that seeks to activate the potential of families and communities to lift themselves out of poverty. 
Using a technology platform, it offers a self-assessment survey and intervention model that enables people to develop practical solutions to overcome their specific needs. This tool empowers families and unites organizations in a powerful social movement.
Martin Burt took us on an inspiring journey beyond the tool itself and shared his vision on poverty, social entrepreneurship and the strong believe in the capacity of people. 


Can microfinance provide economic and social empowerment to refugees ?

Can microfinance provide economic and social empowerment to refugees ?

by Ms. Alia Farhat, NFS Manager, Al Majmoua, Lebanon.


Migrants and refugees have been at the heart of major political, media and civil discussions in recent periods. Due to the increasing and material importance of this phenomenon, ignoring this crisis is no longer possible. The number of forcibly displaced people has been growing worldwide, reaching an estimated 68.5 million people.

Lebanon has traditionally been a refuge for marginalised groups in the region. It has taken in more than one million Syrians that have fled to Lebanon since the civil war in their country. Refugees now make up about 20% of the total population. The impact of this on Lebanese society is considerable: including growing unemployment and poverty, along with a greater pressure on public services and infrastructure.
Ms. Alia Farhat gave an overall presentation of the refugees situation in Lebanon, with special focus on the access to finance. She presented the challenges and lessons learnt.


How MFIs provide stability in the turmoil of Central America ?

In an ever-changing world, Central America is no exception. To the contrary, people living in this region have to deal with many challenges such as climate change affecting agriculture coupled with high prices volatility of commodities, political instability, massive migration flows and dependence on remittances just to name a few.

In this context, how can the microfinance sector help poor people stabilizing their everyday life and building their future while maintaining its own financial sustainability ?

Geert Peetermans, Senior Managing Partner & Chief Investment Officer at Incofin Investment Management,took us through the global socio-economic context as well as the leading trends driving the microfinance sector in this region.

The Microfinance Lunchbreak welcomed Juan Luis Moreno and René Banegas, two seasoned microfinance institutions managers from AMC in El Salvador and Pilarh in Honduras. They shared with us their ambitions and challenges while Marjan Justaert, journalist at “De Standaard”, made a lively debate out of it.


More info

The holy grail of microinsurance: voluntary take-up

Most countries in sub-Saharan Africa are unable to grow insurance markets beyond group or bundled microinsurance products. This presentation looks at why this is the case and how it undermines the contribution of insurance markets for households, businesses and governments. It explores how the latest wave of technological innovation is helping to overcoming this challenge and how it can be best applied to support the voluntary take-up of microinsurance products.


Doubell Chamberlain is the founder and managing director of Cenfri in South Africa. He has extensive experience in microinsurance, AML/CFT, distribution of financial services and regulatory framework design. He has worked extensively across the developing world, including Africa, Latin America, South Asia and Southeast Asia. He is also the chairperson of the governing board of the Microinsurance Network (MiN).




David Saunders is an engagement manager at Cenfri leading their knowledge management activities. In this role, he is responsible for bringing together and packaging Cenfri's work in financial inclusion, supporting projects across sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America. He has worked with Cenfri’s research teams to produce and share knowledge generated through Cenfri’s Making Access Possible (MAP) diagnostic programme, the insight2impact data facility and microinsurance and retail payments thematic work.


Click here to watch the full video report.

How smallholder farmers feed the world

Which financial challenges to overcome?


November, 6th 2017


All over the world, more than 500 million households are active in small scale family farming. As the world is becoming a global village and the agriculture in many countries is up scaling and making use of increasingly complex technologies, one could reasonably question the future of smallholder farmers. However, over the last years, smallholder farmers have received increasing attention and support as the FAO proclaimed 2014 the international year of family farming and interdisciplinary experts forums such as IPES-Food are advocating for a paradigm shift in the current agro-food system.  

How can the smallholder farmers contribute to fighting hunger while supporting local economic development and biodiversity as well as sustainable food systems ? What are the challenges they face and how can microfinance contribute to overcome them ?


Prof. Bina Agarwal is an award-winning development economist with extensive experience in the fields of food security, gender inequality, agriculture and environmental governance. She is currently Professor at the GDI, University of Manchester, UK.

She played a key role in India’s inheritance law reforms and serves on the board of many international organizations, including IPES-Food. In 2016 she received the Order of Agricultural Merit, Government of France, and in 2017 the Agropolis Foundation’s Louis Malassis Prize for an “Outstanding Career in Agricultural Development”.

Click here to watch the full video coverage.


Can we imagine a world without banks?
The intriguing experience of mobile money pioneer M-PESA

April 2016

Michael Joseph, Director of Mobile Money of the Vodafone Group Services shared his vision on financial inclusion and how mobile technology is creating new opportunities to provide services at the bottom of the pyramid.
After the success of the mobile payment service and its introduction in Asia and Europe, the sky seems to be the limit with new services such as savings, borrowings and micro-insurance. Do banks, microfinance institutions and micro-insurers have to be concerned of being made redundant? Or should they rather embrace this (r)evolution and look for new partnerships to increase their outreach and create value for their clients?



Click here to watch the full video coverage.

 The Business of Doing Good: Can a real customer-centric approach be the key driver of commercial success?

June 5, 2015

Customer-centricity is the foundation for both the social and financial performance in microfinance. But too often the focus is on ‘good products’ rather than ‘good organisations’. Anton Simanowitz, author of  The Business of Doing Good  will outline what it takes to create microfinance organisations that consistently deliver positive change for their clients and succeed in increasingly competitive markets.

Click here to watch the full video

Client value or business case? Finding the magical balance in microinsurance.

What’s the value of microinsurance for low income clients in developing countries and the business case for insurers, distributors, and intermediaries? Based on analysis of over 2 dozen insures and interviews with clients of 15 microinsurance programs in 11 countries, Michael McCord, President of the MicroInsurance Centre, brought us cutting edge insights and practical answers to these intriguing questions.



Click here   to watch the full video coverage.

After transparency… how to define Responsible Pricing?

Five years ago, the microfinance industry knew little to nothing about the prices charged in microfinance. We now have more transparent prices, based on consistent definitions and formulas. And the results are surprising in many ways, showing an extremely wide range of prices charged.

Why are prices so different between countries, and among the MFIs in the same country? Why do some countries have large portions of the market paying true prices of 100% and more?

Guestspeaker: Chuck Waterfield, CEO & Founder MicroFinance Transparency, Pennsylvania, USA


Click  here to download the conference report and watch the full video coverage. 

Interest rates in microfinance - abuse or necessity?

Microfinance has very often been criticized due to its high interest rates. The interest rates in microfinance are indeed generally higher than those of the banks.

Are these interest rates which seem exorbitant justified? Is a reduction achievable for the granters of credit? Do clients get value for money? What’s a fair interest rate? How is the microfinance sector evolving?

Debate with Marek Hudon, Professor SBC-EM / ULB and Aldo Moauro, Executive Director Microfinanza Rating. Moderator: Kurt Moors, programme coordinator BRS.

Click here to download the conference report and watch the full video coverage.


Microfinance as impact investing: but what impact?

Impact investing is the new kid on the investment block. The term is brand new, but the practice it refers to already exists for quite some time. Microfinance, for that matter, can be seen as an established form of impact investing avant la lettre. It is assumed to make a positive contribution to societal change. Impact investing di ferentiates from previous attempts to combine investments and social, environmental, cultural or other non- financial outcomes in two ways: it also attracts investments aimed at market-rate returns, and it attempts to measure impact in a systematic way.

Prof. Dr Harry Hummels focused on the importance of impact measurement from the viewpoint of a forward-looking investor with a special attention to microfinance. He also commented on the future of micro finance as an impact investment branch.


 Click here to watch the full video coverage and download the conference report. 

Microinsurance – Distribution approaches that reach the poor

Working poor live with substantial risk and face devastating circumstances when those risks become reality. Global insurance markets have ample capital - both financial and intellectual - to ultimately insure the assets and income of the working poor.
Nonetheless, demand and supply are not adequately aligned. Increasingly, new methods of distributing and offering insurance are proving successful. These include via mobile phone, through supply chains of global corporations, with informal "agents", and even as lottery tickets.

Brandon Mathews is a Board Member of the Microinsurance Network and facilitates its Distribution Working Group. He is also on the board of the ILO’s  microinsurance Innovation Facility and is the former Head of Emerging Consumer / Microinsurance at Zurich Insurance Group.

Mr. Mathews shared his insights on innovative microinsurance distribution models at the seventh Microfinance Lunch Break on October 19th in Brussels.


Click here to download the conference report and watch the full video coverage.

 Governance for Microfinance: the cooperative benchmark?

In microfinance, corporate governance is often stressed both as a major risk and as a field where improvements are required. In practice, however, these "calls for action" are rarely developed and, like many other sectors, microfinance lacks clear rameworks for analysing how corporate governance is implemented and how it could be improved.

The presentation of Marc Labie, Associate Professor at the University of Mons (UMONS), aimed at clarifying these questions contrasting the case of savings and credit cooperatives with other types of microfinance institutions. An interesting debate at te start of the UN International Year of Cooperatives.

Click here to watch the full video coverage

Investments and subsidies: Matching the funding needs of microfinance?

Over the past two years, microfinance has to some extent been a victim of its own success. Is this the result of inappropriate or too much funding? Is there a link between too much funding and the bad microfinance practices that have emerged recently, like for example in India? Is there an imbalance between the amount of investments and donor funding within the sector that exacerbates the problem? And how can investments and donor funding play a better role in strengthening the sector?


These key questions were tackled by Prof. Malcolm Harper during the fifth Microfinance Lunch Break organised by BRS in partnership with ADA, Cera, KBC, Assuralia and Febelfin in Brussels on Friday, October 7th 2011.


  Click here to download the conference report and watch the full video coverage.  

Portfolios of the poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day

The groundbreaking book Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day examines the cash flow of almost 300 households among the poorest of the world. The result is a humanising insight into the economic lives of the global poor, and a valuable resource for attempting to improve those lives, especially through microfinance institutions.

Jonathan Morduch, co-author of the book, was the keynote speaker at the fourth Microfinance Lunch Break, organised by ADA, BRS, Cera, KBC on February 21 in Brussels.



Click here to download the conference report and watch the full video coverage.  

Microinsurance: Innovating risk coping mechanisms

Low-income households in the South face many risks, still, few have access to formal insurance. Innovative protection mechanisms are being developed for people with little or no coverage from formal protection systems.

Craig Churchill is chair of the Microinsurance Network and the head of the ILO's Microinsurance Innovation Facility, launched in 2008 with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Mr Churchill offered his perspective on microinsurance at the third Microfinance Lunch Break on September 28, 2010 in Brussels.

Click here   to download the conference report and watch the full video coverage. 

Regulation in Microfinance

Is a rush to regulate taking place in the microfinance sector? Is it necessary to introduce a specific regulation framework for microfinance institutions, and what are the advantages and limitations of - or indeed the obstacles to - such regulation?

Mr Eric Ekué, expert on regulation in microfinance and former manager of the Decentralised Financial Systems of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), tackled these questions during the second Microfinance Lunch Break on February 25, 2010 in Brussels.

 Click here to download the conference report and watch the full video coverage. 

Is microfinance being affected by the financial crisis?

Is the world-wide financial crisis impacting the microfinance sector? Are microfinance institutions from developing countries facing problems as a result of this global crisis? And what lessons must investors learn from this? These were the key questions tackled during the first Microfinance Lunch Break organised by ADA, BRS, Cera, KBC and  Febelfin in Brussels on February 10, 2009. Damian von Stauffenberg, founder and director of rating agency Microrate was the guest speaker.


 These were the questions at the center of discussions during the first Microfinance Lunch Break organized by the BRS, ADA, Cera, KBC and Febelin, February 10, 2009 in Brussels. Damian von Stauffenberg, founder and director of rating agency Microrate was the guest speaker. Click here to download the conference report and watch the full video coverage.