Friday, December 14, 2007

Aqroinvest and ACDI/VOCA

Aqroinvest is one of Kiva's dynamic partners in Azerbaijan originally founded in 2001 by 32 farmers and catering to low-income people and union members through microfinance. The organization has grown exponentially since its beginning to serve more clients throughout Azerbaijan (for example, the organization's outstanding loan portfolio was about $350,000 with 156 borrowers at the end of 2003 and was over $1.3 million in outstanding portfolio with almost 750 borrowers last month). Aqroinvest is a credit union, a member of the local microfinance network called the Azerbaijan Microfinance Association (AMFA), and has been working with Kiva for 7 months.

Loan capital is an important part of a microfinance institution's growth and Kiva lenders from around the world have allowed Aqroinvest to serve more clients in Azerbaijan by loaning through Kiva. However, with growth, organizations require the development of strong systems and processes to ensure a safe and secure expansion. Aqroinvest has been committed to this principle throughout its partnership with Kiva and, to our excitement, recently announced a partnership it had formed with ACDI/VOCA.

ACDI/VOCA is an international NGO based out of the United States with a mission to "promote economic opportunities for cooperatives, enterprises and communities through the innovative application of sound business practice." Its technical experts and advice are among the best in the world (if not the best) and they have a strong reputation in the field of microfinance for their excellent work. ACDI/VOCA was one of the founders of one of Kiva's partners in Tajikistan, MLF Microinvest, as well as one of our partners in Bolivia, Fundacion Agrocapital, and has provided tremendous support to all of Kiva's partners in Azerbaijan (Normicro, Komak Credit Union, and Aqroinvest). See Kiva Fellow Liz Vallette's blog from the field about a training she conducted with ACDI/VOCA Azerbaijan expert Paul Hamlin in Baku (the capital of Azerbaijan).

Aqroinvest recently emailed me with very exciting news and explained that they had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ACDI/VOCA for technical advice on Aqroinvest's financial planning and strategy plan, training on a key industry tool for financial reporting (the SEEP FRAME tool), support in getting a rating from a microfinance rating agency, and assistance in learning and developing tools to ensure better internal controls. This technical assistance is USAID funded and ACDIVOCA implemented through a project called the "SME Support through Financial Sector Development." The project "builds local capacity of several local Azerbaijani partners in order to provide a sustainability, local source of training and technical assistance to the Azerbaijani financial sector. In addition, the project seeks to mitigate constraints to borrowing and lending, and more broadly, to create a stronger and more competitive financial sector.”

This work will be incredibly helpful for Aqroinvest as it matures as an organization and becomes better able to serve an increasing number of borrowers.

Keep your eyes out for loans to Aqroinvest clients and visit Aqroinvest's partner page to learn more about their organization.

Posted by: Ben Elberger, Microfinance Partnerships Manager