In October 2000, Accion began working in partnership with microlending organizations in sub-Saharan Africa, marking its first initiative outside the Americas. Recognizing the vital need for microcredit throughout Africa, Accion committed itself to increasing financial inclusion for poor, self-employed Africans throughout the continent. In 2006, Accion launched a landmark partnership with Ecobank, the leading regional bank in West Africa. Pan-African Savings and Loans (then called EB-Accion Savings and Loans) launched operations in Ghana in 2007 and is expanding to neighboring countries.
In 2005, Accion set off on a new venture to reach another vast, underserved group: urban small business owners in India. Since establishing an office in Bangalore, Accion has partnered with local financial institutions in Patna and Mumbai, guiding them in applying individual and group lending and tailored credit scoring, among other microfinance methodologies. In India, as elsewhere, Accion's work is built on the premise that sustainable, responsible institutions beget empowered clients able to improve their futures for the long term.
Aided by returns from our investment, through the Accion Gateway Fund, in Mexican partner Compartamos Banco, Accion began pursuing new projects, including creating a critical strategic reserve, developing new products and technologies, increasing staff recruitment and training, launching new initiatives around the world, and investing in less-mature MFIs to bring microfinance to even more of the world's entrepreneurial poor. In particular, Accion established the Center for Financial Inclusion in 2008, an "action tank" focused on advancing the commercial model of microfinance while upholding the interests and needs of poor clients worldwide.
Today, the Center works with a wide variety of actors – microfinance experts, banks, investors, regulators, technology firms, universities and others – to address challenges related to financial inclusion. Center staff members collaborate with experts across industries, many of whom have not yet applied their strengths to microfinance or worked at the same table; to research, develop and share solutions that enhance the lives of the world’s poor. The Center’s goal is to connect the microfinance community with the major drivers of the global economy – capital markets and technology – and harness their capabilities to address the financial needs of poor people. By bringing these elements together, the Center for Financial Inclusion serves as a bridge between today’s microfinance and a future of economic opportunity for all.