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    Asia Microfinance Forum 2010 Attracts 450 Experts from 50 Countries

    Published on October 14, 2010

    Mumbai : The third Asia Microfinance Forum was inaugurated today in Sri Lanka with around 450 practitioners, policymakers, investors, academics and advocates from over 50 countries gathering in Colombo to deliberate on the central role of microfinance in achieving greater financial inclusion in Asia. Held from 12 to 15 October 2010, this event builds on the success of the first Asia Microfinance Forum in Beijing, China in 2006 and the second one in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2008.

    Convened by The Banking With the Poor Network (BWTP) and organised by the Foundation for Development Cooperation (FDC), with the Citi Foundation as Lead Sponsor, and Hatton National Bank as Local Host, the 2010 Asia Microfinance Forum’s theme is “Financial Inclusion – Achieving Asia’s Potential”.

    The opening address of the Asia Microfinance Forum was delivered by Priyantha Fernando, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. The three-day agenda has more than 50 eminent speakers from around the world examining a diverse range of microfinance-related subjects such as the importance of robust institutional governance and management structures to the growth of the industry; strategies of successful institutions in overcoming transaction and portfolio risk; social performance management in Asia and internationally; the current state of policy and regulation in the region; the role and responsibility of MFIs in financial education; the role of savings in increasing financial inclusion and the benefits for both client and institutions; and, the role of human resource development policy in implementing MFIs’ mission and achieving maximum outreach.

    The Forum also hosted a special session on the future growth and development of the microfinance sector in Sri Lanka on the opening day. This was moderated by Nimal Fernando, Managing Director, Inclusive Finance International, Sri Lanka. The discussants at this session were W.A. Wijewardena, former Senior Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka; Rienzie Wijetilleke, Chairman, Hatton National Bank, Sri Lanka; and P.A.Kiriwandeniya, Chairman, SANASA, Sri Lanka. Mr W M Karunaratne, Assistant Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka was Special Guest on this panel.

    Other experts featured in the program include Philip Brown, Managing Director and Director of Risk, Citi Microfinance, Citi Asia Pacific; Anuratna Chadha, Managing Director and Head of Citi Microfinance India; Graham Macmillan, Program Officer, Citi Foundation; Paula Bennett, Director, Corporate Citizenship, Citi Asia Pacific; Rajendra Thegarajah, CEO, HNB; Chandula Abeywickrema, Deputy General Manager, HNB and Chairman of the BWTP Network; Craig Wilson, Executive Director, FDC; and, Jamie Bedson, BWTP Program Manager.

    The Asia Microfinance Forum 2010 has multiple components. In addition to the main body of the conference, there are four separate workshops covering specific topics including social performance management, housing finance, investor relations, and client protection. The Asia Microfinance Forum 2010 was preceded by the Asia Network Summit which brought together representatives of Asia’s national microfinance associations. In addition, the Asia Microfinance Forum 2010 incorporates the Citi-sponsored Invest Asia Marketplace which matches investors and microfinance organisations from across Asia.

    Delivering the opening remarks at the Forum, Shirish Apte, Citi Asia Pacific’s Chief Executive Officer, said, “As part of our longstanding commitment to building the capacity of microfinance providers around the world, the Citi Foundation is proud to be the lead sponsor of the Asia Microfinance Forum since its inception four years ago. We are especially pleased that the Asia Microfinance Forum is being held in Sri Lanka as it will help provide impetus to the country’s microfinance sector in its increasingly important role in the economic revitalization of poorer communities. Through our combined philanthropic and commercial support to the microfinance sector, Citi continues to strengthen its focus on Responsible Finance, and financial inclusion in particular.”

    In welcome remarks, Mr Chandula Abeywickrema, Chairman of BWTP Network, said that “BWTP’s mission is to enhance the delivery of financial services and share best practices among microfinance organisations across the region and noted that BWTP has its vision “Achieving Greater Financial Inclusion in Asia.” NGOs, local and foreign banks and investors are all exploring ways of packaging and delivering a broader and better set of financial services to the poor and we want the Asia Microfinance Forum 2010 to showcase the initiatives that could meet the increasing demand for microfinance services across Asia.”

    In 2009-10, the Citi Foundation gave a grant of US$300,000 to The Foundation for Development Cooperation and the Banking With the Poor Network as core funding to hold the Asia Microfinance Forum 2010 in Sri Lanka. Welcoming delegates, Glen Rase, CEO and Country Head of Citi Sri Lanka, said, “Over its long history, Sri Lanka’s microfinance sector has demonstrated many key strengths – a diversity of institutions, significant savings culture, large outreach, strong financial sector infrastructure and the emergence of specialized microfinance training and we are confident that the Asia Microfinance Forum will serve as a catalyst in the further development of the sector. Since we began operations in 1979, Citi Sri Lanka has been actively engaged in community initiatives. Our most recent commitment is towards a financial education program for young adults funded by the Citi Foundation. We are also keen to scale up our engagement with the country’s microfinance sector to help commercially sustainable MFIs in Sri Lanka achieve greater scale.”