Microfinance Market Niches And Client Profiles In Bolivia
This paper presents and interprets descriptive statistics generated from data obtained in a survey of clients of five microfinance organizations believed to be among the best in Bolivia. These lenders represent different combinations of organizational design, lending technology, and market area of operations. Two are regulated financial intermediaries and three are NGOs. Two operate in rural areas (PRODEM and Sartawi) and three operate in urban areas (BancoSol, FIE, and Caja Los Andes). Two offer individual loans and three grant loans through joint liability groups. The paper discusses household-enterprise profiles of a sample of 622 clients and identifies terms and conditions of loan contracts with these organizations to evaluate the depth and quality of their outreach. The interpretation seeks to establish connections between key characteristics of the clients and features of the lending technologies that lead to the matching of classes of borrowers with particular organizations and that influence the choice of market niches. Data on loan sizes suggest the existence of different but broadly overlapping market niches associated with three tiers of clients. The sharpest distinction is between urban and rural clients. The matching between clients and organizations also reflects a weak but positive correlation between levels of poverty and loan sizes. According to an index of basic needs fulfillment of their clients, these organizations can be ranked as: FIE and Caja Los Andes (first tier), BancoSol (second tier), and PRODEM and Sartawi (third tier). The same ranking is obtained when clients are ordered according to loan size, the ratio of loan size to the value of sales, and the value of monthly sales. The three tiers of clients are associated with different socio-economic features of their household-enterprises: sex, education, household size, access to electricity, water supplies, and sewage facilities, employment-generating capacity of the enterprise, informality and separation of household and enterprise, occupations and the like. The development of lending technologies that do not rely on standard financial statements and collateralizable assets is a formidable innovation that explains the outreach and sustainability of these organizations. Differences in the guarantees required for loans dominate distinctions in lending technology. Trade-offs between loan size, interest rates, and guarantee requirements attract different subsets of the clientele. Joint liability seems to be appropriate for very poor people, but group borrowers eventually outgrow this relationship. Caja Los Andes and FIE have shown that it is possible to supply individual loans to poor people and be profitable. Most clients are satisfied with the services received. The lowest satisfaction concerns loan sizes and loan-size rationing may be widespread. At least in urban areas, increasing competition will force these organizations to improve their services and adjust loan sizes. All of these organizations are expanding the frontier of microfinance by developing lending technologies for a much poorer clientele than is reached by collateral-based lenders. This is a formidable achievement.
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