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Could the economic crisis harm microfinance? It seems possible that high expectations paired with a collapse in funding (archetypical elements of bubbles when bursting) may erode confidence in this development tool, which – for right or wrong reasons – is currently a dominant element of international development governance.

Recently, I got my hands on a publication by Deutsche Bank Research from December 2007, predicting a fantastic acceleration of growth in the microfinance industry over the coming decade. That they would publish such a view is unsurprising, given that DB is the issuer of several microfinance investment funds; in fact, according to this paper, for every Dollar currently invested in microfinance there are a full ten Dollars of untapped demand. DB expect this situation to be remedied until 2015 by a ten-fold increase in investments from the private private-sector, bringing the total volume of investments in microfinance to 20 billion Dollars (about six times the equity value of Commerzbank). Private-sector investments already more than trebled between 2004 and 2006.

Does this kind of prognosis sound familiar, in any way? Certainly, predictions of ever faster growth in a niche market in which most firms have not yet earned a single Dollar, based on wild assumptions about unmet demand, were all too common practice during the bubble of the late 90s. 

Would it be too pessimistic (or just too early) to coin the phrase “microfinance bubble”? Well, maybe it just got coined here, and possibly for good reasons. Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
January 2009

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