Under its Livelihood and Inclusion Finance Expansion (LIFE) project, USAID/Lebanon launched “Pathway to Savings” in partnership with Bankmed and its subsidiary, Emkan Finance on July 2. The launch event was held at Bankmed headquarters with USAID Economic Growth Office Director, Dr. William Butterfield, executives from Bankmed and Emkan, representatives from the Central Bank, and other stakeholders.
The “Pathway to Savings” initiative provides savings services for the unbanked segment of the Lebanese population, namely under-served entrepreneurs who do not have access to financial services provided by commercial banks, thus limiting their access to savings and ability to grow their businesses. Through this innovative concept, microfinance institutions (MFI) will act as the intermediary between the client and commercial bank to assist the client in setting up savings accounts. Emkan will be the first MFI in Lebanon under the “Pathway to Savings” program, which is expected to reach 2,000 beneficiaries. USAID will provide incentives to expand outreach and diversify banking clients, by enrolling them in savings accounts and developing savings strategies suitable to their needs through Bankmed.
Mr. Raoul Nehme, Chairman of Emkan Finance and Executive General Manager of Bankmed, said, “Bankmed is proud to partner with Emkan as the lead microfinance institution in Lebanon under the “Pathway to Savings” program. This project will enable both Emkan and Bankmed to play an instrumental role perfectly aligned with their economic mission and that of LIFE project. Together we will advance the microfinance sector by expanding and making more inclusive micro-finance options. This will consequently improve the economic opportunities for low-income segments of Lebanon.”
Commenting on this initiative, Dr. Mayada Baydas, Executive General Manager of Emkan Finance, said, “Bankmed and Emkan Finance will partner to deliver this service,” and “the microfinance sector in Lebanon has exclusively focused on access to micro-loans, although no efforts have been made to encourage low-income segments of the population to save or open bank accounts. Through the “Pathway to Savings” project, the forgotten half of financial services—savings—will be mobilized through Bankmed accounts and accessible to micro-finance clientele, and pave the path to financial inclusion.”
Dr. Butterfield said, “This American-Lebanese partnership will bring disadvantaged groups into the financial system. It will help small businesses grow through increased access to loans, and promote saving, financial literacy, and increased access to commercial banking sector services which we believe is critical for improving livelihoods.”
The USAID/Lebanon-funded LIFE project will work with local microfinance partners with a proven track record of achievement on the national level to bring forth a tangible change for small-scale entrepreneurs and microenterprises. LIFE will enable a large segment of the Lebanese population to build business capacity, access formal financial services, and establish sustainable livelihoods.