Like Bolivia, Peru is truly a country of microfinance. But although the principles of microfinance have always existed there, it was not until the 1980s, and especially in the first years of the new millennium, that the sector really began to take off, alongside a genuine “boom” in the Peruvian economy. Today there are over 4 million micro-entrepreneurs in Peru, with 70% of the working population employed by small or medium-sized enterprises (SME).
A visit to two Peruvian microfinance players, diametrically opposed in terms of structure but not in philosophy, was called for.
These two entities were Promujer, an NGO based in Puno, thanks to whom we were able to meet three microentrepreneurs, and the Caja Municipal de Arequipa (Arequipa Municipal Fund, or CMAC).
These days, microfinance is clearly supports the development and growth of microentrepreneurs. The goal of Promujer, a supranational MFI of Bolivian origin created in the 90s as the country’s first NGO, is to help their customers to develop on all levels. “We use microfinance as a tool to help people escape from their condition of poverty, their condition of exclusion. But our goal is not to maximize our revenues, or to achieve the best indicators,” states Naldi N. Delgado Cruz, national director of Promujer.
Promujer’s two “keystone” activities have to do with one of two categories: education and health.
On education, Naldi N. Delgado Cruz sums up her thoughts: “Promujer’s goal is to empower women. Education is a tool that allows us to convey information to them. In our training sessions, we share thoughts on a very wide range of subjects: economics, health, family, politics, and more.” The knowledge that is shared during these sessions is essentially preventive. Promujer helps its customers to understand that by organizing themselves better, they can spend less and earn more.
On health, Promujer’s objective is not to create hospitals, but to educate and to instil certain values in its customers. “We explain to them how to care for their bodies in order to have a healthy pregnancy, and we explain the importance of sex education for children. Once these bases are in place, they translate into a better quality of life in the long term.” There is a medical consultation centre with a nurse in every Promujer branch. In this centre, customers and their families can be seen for a free consultation, to get vaccinated, to ask questions … But Promujer has gone even further, by organizing health campaigns.
In the cities as well as in the villages, Promujer sets up a tent to organise conferences, and brings in ambulances to provide treatment. The MFI even has several medical vehicles that travel the countryside and visit even the most remote of villages: “The inhabitants of these villages are never able to receive treatment without taking a bus or even two in order to reach a hospital … Promujer’s ambulances play a very important role for the women in these villages, who are unable to visit a gynecologist or to receive dental care”, said Ms. Delgado Cruz, who concluded: “Una mujer sana es una mujer sin limite,” or “a healthy woman is a woman without limits.”
At CMAC, we met Jaime Elard Guzman Ramos, head of products. Municipal funds have been established in all of Peru’s major cities: there is a Caja Municipal of Arequipa, one of Cusco, and one of Trujillo. These Cajas are dependent on the municipalities, and their mission is to serve the community by supporting its small and medium-sized enterprises.
The difference between a Caja Municipal and a Microfinance Bank is not in the way that it operates or in its products, but rather in how the profits are reinvested. “The money generated by a bank may be invested in Lima or abroad; it depends on the wishes of its shareholders. Whereas with the Cajas Municipales, this money is pumped back into the local economy”, said Mr. Ramos.
What CMAC most wants to make more accessible are supplementary banking services such as microsavings. “Many Caja customers can’t read or write, but we explain the value of saving for their future.” Sometimes the deposits are very low – only 50 soles/€8 – but taking the step of making savings deposits is the most important thing, and this is what CMAC is trying to achieve.
Next stop: Ecuador!