ACCION Launches Microfinance Operations in Cameroon

U.S. Nonprofit Partners with Ecobank to Help Broaden
Financial Inclusion in Central Africa

DOUALA, CAMEROON, May 6, 2010 –EB-ACCION Microfinance, a new microfinance institution formed through a partnership between ACCION® International, a pioneer and leader in microfinance, and Ecobank, a leading independent pan-African banking group in Africa, has opened the doors of its first two branches in Douala, at the Mboppi and Congo markets.

EB-ACCION Microfinance will also be supported by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, which is making a 15 percent investment; ACCION Investments in Microfinance, SPC (AINV) is taking a 30 percent stake in the new institution.

EB-ACCION Microfinance has been established to offer microcredit and savings products to owners of micro-enterprises and other Cameroonians who are underserved by the nation’s commercial banks.  Through partners, it will also offer microinsurance and money transfer services.  In its first five years of operation, the institution expects to open 83,000 savings accounts, with total deposits of US $36 million.  In the same period, the institution expects to serve 33,000 active borrowers with an outstanding loan portfolio of US $37 million.

EB-ACCION Microfinance will leverage Ecobank’s existing branch infrastructure, payment service and distribution networks to maximize operational efficiency and control costs.  A staff of approximately 50 young Cameroonians has been recruited, supervised by a team of senior managers, including ACCION staff.

Over the next five years, EB-ACCION Microfinance plans to extend operations to other cities in Cameroon, including Yaounde, Bafoussam, Garoua and Maroua.  If conditions allow, service may be extended in the following years to other countries in the region.

Credit operations will utilize an underwriting methodology used successfully by EB-ACCION in Ghana and by ACCION partners throughout the world, which assesses the customer’s repayment capacity based on calculation of the household surplus rather than on traditional collateral.

Michael Schlein, president and CEO of ACCION, said, “After two years of successful partnership with Ecobank in Ghana and Nigeria, we begin work in Cameroon with tremendous confidence in our ability to provide opportunity and help entrepreneurs and working families to improve their living standards.  EB-ACCION Microfinance is a testimony to our commitment to building inclusive finance in some of the world’s most challenging and underserved markets.”

Arnold Ekpe, group CEO of Ecobank, said, “Ecobank is committed to extending banking services to the low-income, small and micro entrepreneurs across the continent. Working with our partner, ACCION, we have made progress in other parts of Africa.  The launch of EB-ACCION Cameroon marks the beginning of our objective to reach out to the underbanked population in Central Africa.”

About ACCION
ACCION International is a private, nonprofit organization with the mission of giving people the financial tools they need – microenterprise loans, business training and other financial services – to work their way out of poverty.  A world pioneer in microfinance, ACCION was founded in 1961 and issued its first microloan in 1973 in Brazil.  ACCION’s partner microfinance institutions today are providing loans as low as $50 to poor men and women entrepreneurs in 23 countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the United States. In the last decade alone, ACCION partners have disbursed more than 28.5 million loans totaling $23.4 billion; 97 percent of the loans have been repaid. For more information, visit www.accion.org.

About Ecobank Group
Incorporated in 1985, Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) is the parent company of the leading independent pan-African banking group in Africa. It currently operates in 29 African countries, namely: Benin, Burkina-Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and now Tanzania. The group also has an affiliate, EBI S.A. in Paris, France, and representative offices in South Africa and Dubai. ETI is listed on the stock exchanges in Lagos, Accra and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) – the BRVM.  The Group is owned by more than 140,000 shareholders including institutional investors. It has over 11,000 employees from 30 different countries in over 750 branches and offices. Ecobank is a full-service bank providing wholesale, retail, investment and transaction banking services and products to governments, financial institutions, multinationals, international organizations, medium, small and micro businesses and individuals. For more information, visit www.ecobank.com.

ACCION® is a registered trademark of ACCION International.

Contacts:
Bruce MacDonald
SVP, Communications
ACCION International
+1 617-616-1546
bmacdonald@accion.org

Brian Kuwik
VP & Program Manager, Africa
ACCION International
+233-21-769861
bkuwik@accion.org

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