Sustainability of the Zambian microfinance industry: A case study of credit management services
Phiri, Veronica Nanyangwe
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This thesis is both a qualitative and quantitative study, investigating the sustainability of Credit Management Services Limited (CMS) within the broader context of the Zambian micro finance industry. Micro finance is regarded as one of the tools for poverty reduction. As such, making microfinance available to many poor people is the purpose of microJinance. Over the years it has become clear that microfinance institutions have to operate efficiently and be self-sustai nable in order to continue assisting the poor. However. in spite of the support and encouragement given for sustainability, evidence shows that there are few sustainable microfinanee institutions in the world. The various factors impacting upon sustainability therefore, need to be examined and means of enhancing sustainabi Ii ty mapped out. The study brought to the fo re the main viewpoints regarding sustainability and how they have been inl1uenced by experiences of MFls around the world. The framework for discussion and analysis of operational sustainability, financial sustainability and operational e ffi ciency is also set out. The study discusses the Zambian microfinance industry and shows how and why the industry has emerged and grown in the past decade. Some constraints are identified that need to be dealt with in order to enhance sustainability of the industry. The study of CMS reveals that the institution is not yet fi nancially sustainable, but that its effi ciency levels are steadily increasing as it has put in place mechanisms to recover costs, charge economic rates of interest and increase and maintain its client outreach. Indicators are that it is moving in the right direction with its cost recovery. increasing client outreach and utilization of loans for on-lending as opposed to subsidies. This study therefore draws on the general experiences of the Credit management Services in order to draw lessons for the Zambian industry. The study will argue the case that though sustainability is difiicult to achieve, there arc positive indicators in the Zambian industry that this is possible and that CMS could be considered as an example. This claim is verified against the experi ence on the ground of Credit Management Services. The study concludes that building a sustainable microfinance industry anywhere is not the easiest task. Sustainabi lity is possible but requires a lot of investment in capacity bui lding and del iberate steps for cost effi ciency, appropriate pricing poli cies and an increased client outreach. The Zambian situation characterised by even a younger industry. will require not only a concerted effort in capacity building, but much more, the need to counter constra ints in the external environment of Mrls. Recommendations lo stake holders inc lude the need to utilise cheaper local human resources and invest in strengthening local institutions owned by local communities, to enhance the sustainability or micro finance initiatives.