Please join me in welcoming Al-Amal Microfinance Bank, Kiva’s first field partner in Yemen, to kiva.org! Al-Amal Microfinance Bank began lending activities in 2009, and has since grown at an impressive rate. Today, Al-Amal is the largest Microfinance Institution in Yemen despite its newness. AMB has disbursed over 30,000 loans and serves clients out of 14 branch offices located throughout Yemen. As of August 2011, 28% of Al-Amal’s active borrowers were youth, and 58% were women.
Al-Amal is the first microfinance institution in the Arab world to offer exclusively shariah-compliant loan products (if you would like to learn more about Islamic Microfinance, CGAP provided an interesting survey of the market in 2008 entitled Islamic Microfinance: An Emerging Market Niche), and has received numerous awards for providing innovative Islamic loan products, most recently, the Islamic Microfinance Challenge 2010, for which Al-Amal competed against 132 other institutions from 43 countries; and the global award "Most Innovative Microfinance Product" in Geneva, Switzerland in 2011.
Al-Amal has shown itself to be both nimble and innovative in its approach to reaching its target clientele. In order to attract youth clients, the bank lowered guarantee requirements, and made its ID requirements more flexible, since many youth do not have official ID. But it is far more interesting to hear about Al-Amal’s challenges and successes and from the bank’s founder, Mohammad S. Al-Lai:
But the question you may be asking is: How is Al-Amal doing right now, given the political unrest in Yemen?
I was impressed by the Al-Amal team’s will to push forward with the Kiva training process during the week of September 19, in spite of the precarious security situation in Sanaa. Though of course, the decreased mobility and insecurity that result from the violence in Yemen have affected peoples’ desire to take on loans, Al-Amal continues to disburse, and their clients continue to seek to grow their businesses (as evidenced by Kumria, who took a loan to buy stock for her gift shop on September 14. And of course, one can only imagine that Al-Amal’s clients are happier than ever that Al-Amal can keep their hard-earned savings safe. After collaborating with their team over the past month, I do not doubt that Al-Amal will continue serving its clients’ interests far into the future, whatever the outcome of the current political unrest may be.