Guest Articles

October 11

Niamh Watters

Taking the Pulse of the Global Inclusive Finance Industry: A Preview of European Microfinance Week 2019

European Microfinance Week 2019 (EMW), taking place on Nov. 20 – 22, is coming up fast, and preparations are in full swing. Hosted by e-MFP, the conference offers a unique meeting place for all professionals working in the inclusive finance sector worldwide. Last year’s event attracted participation from 450 leading global experts, policy-makers and investors from the financial inclusion sector, working in 69 countries (you can check out coverage of the 2018 conference here).

EMW is a member-driven event, and as such, it offers a unique opportunity to “take the pulse” of the industry. The conference agenda provides a useful overview of the topics that are driving discussion in global microfinance, and the key players, insights and innovations that are shaping the future of inclusive finance. We’re very excited about the EMW 2019 line-up, and we’d like to share some highlights below.

On Nov. 20, the first day of the conference, we’ll host our traditional “Action Group” Day, where our specialised working groups meet to build on their months of work by holding in-depth discussions and training on their focus topics. This year, the groups will discuss topics like human capacity development, measuring investor contributions to the SDGs and green smart finance.

On Nov. 21 and 22, there will be three thought-provoking plenaries:


Strengthening resilience to climate change through financial inclusion

In a discussion with sector experts, the finalists of the European Microfinance Award 2019 (APA of Kenya, ASKI of the Philippines and FDL of Nicaragua) will present their initiatives, discuss the main challenges they’ve faced when developing their climate change resilience initiatives, and reflect on the role of the sector. The plenary will kick off with a keynote speech by Tim McDonnell, journalist and National Geographic “Explorer,” on the growing effects of climate change on migration, featuring insights, stories and images from his investigations in the field.


Protecting the working poor in the 21st century through responsible finance

2019 marks the Centenary of the International Labour Organization. The past century has seen tremendous improvements in worker protection, in terms of working hours, health and safety conditions, and the growth of unions – along with the reduction of child labour and forced labour around the world. However, with massive increases in population (especially in low-income countries), global consumer supply chains that originate in the factories of the South and East, the informalization of enterprises and employment contracts, and growing urban migration, it’s clear that there remains much to be done. This plenary will consider what comes next: How do we build on the progress that has been made, and how can responsible finance ensure that workers are protected from harm and offered new opportunities for prosperity? Speakers will include Craig Churchill, Chief, Social Finance Programme at the International Labour Organization; Guy Stuart, Executive Director at Microfinance Opportunities; and Reema Nanavaty, of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA).


Responsible client choices in finance: Whose responsibility is it?

While client protection is a foundation of responsible finance, implementing it requires providers to wrestle with a fundamental question: When does protection become a paternalistic limitation on client choice? This provocative session will feature vibrant discussion involving Gerhard Coetzee, Lead, Customer Value at CGAP; Roshaneh Zafar, Founder of Kashf Foundation in Pakistan; Timothy Ogden, Managing Director of the Financial Access Initiative; and Mayada El-Zoghbi, Managing Director of CFI. Together, they’ll explore the challenge of balancing between these two objectives – client choice and client protection. (Note: EMW will live-stream this plenary on NextBillion, for those who can’t make it to the conference.)


And beyond these plenaries, there’s plenty more in store, with over 25 sessions covering the most relevant issues in the sector today, including:

  • Accelerating responsible digital transformation through impact investing;
  • Financing access to education, how to make it work;
  • Leveraging data to promote climate resilient agriculture;
  • Investors as partners or adversaries? Creating efficiencies through collaboration;
  • From social intent to social impact: measuring outcomes;
  • Improving financial health;
  • Climate disaster relief for sustainable resilience;
  • Financial inclusion in Bangladesh;
  • Mitigating child labour and unsafe work practices;
  • Managing cyber security risks;
  • Strengthening resilience to climate change: the role of financial regulators;
  • Innovative business models in energy;
  • Refugee finance;
  • Opportunities for gender inclusion via fintech;
  • Safety nets and long-term plans: how to encourage savings;
  • Financing cooperatives – the good, the bad and the ugly; and
  • Investing in climate change resilience

We also look forward to hearing the announcement of the winner of the €100,000 European Microfinance Award 2019 – with the theme of “Strengthening Resilience to Climate Change” – during a ceremony at the European Investment Bank on Nov. 21, to which all EMW participants are invited.

As Christoph Pausch, Executive Secretary of e-MFP, says: “European Microfinance Week continues to attract a diverse and impressive range of stakeholders from all parts of the financial inclusion ecosystem. Gathering top experts and thought leaders from the sector, EMW is the ideal forum for knowledge sharing and establishing new partnerships. We look forward to welcoming people from all over the world to join e-MFP in supporting the sector and identifying and influencing future innovations.”

For more information visit, and to register, visit the European Microfinance Week 2019 website.


Editor’s Note: NextBillion will be a media partner at the event, providing live-tweeting, interviews with key panelists and speakers, and live-stream coverage of the closing plenary on Nov. 22. We’ll also be giving away a free ticket to the event to a lucky subscriber of our newsletter, NextBillion Notes. Sign up by Oct. 16 for your chance to win.


Niamh Watters is Information Officer at European Microfinance Platform.


Photo provided by organization.




climate change, financial inclusion, microfinance