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May 14, 2020

BOPA accelerates financial inclusion and female leadership in Asia

Access to financial services in developing countries is scarce, and it hampers the ability for people to improve their livelihood. Backed financially by Finnfund and IFU, BOPA is funding and developing microfinance institutions in Asia and has recently joined the 2X Challenge, a G7/DFI initiative to mobilise financing for women’s empowerment.
Creating financial inclusion is vital to support people in developing their livelihood and is consequently an integrated part of the Sustainable Development Goals. To reach people in poorer countries and rural areas in Asia, Finnfund and IFU have invested in Base of the Pyramid Asia (BOPA).

The company is specialised in funding and developing small and midsize microfinance institutions in Asia. As of now, BOPA has funded 8 microfinance institutions in seven countries in Asia (Myanmar, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam, Cambodia and Timor Leste) that currently serve 898,585 clients of which 90 per cent are women.
“For Finnfund, the investment in BOPA is a way of supporting small and growing microfinance institutions. Since the first investment in 2017, Finnfund has seen how BOPA through its portfolio companies supports especially female and rural entrepreneurs and creates a significant number of jobs and tax income,” said Finnfund’s Associate Director, Head of Financial Institutions portfolio Antti Urvas.

As a member of the 2X Challenge, Finnfund and IFU are now working with gender impact more systematically and this has led to an agreement to include BOPA in the 2X aspiration to provide women with improved access to e.g. leadership opportunities, quality employment and finance.

“We are very pleased with BOPA joining the 2X Challenge, and we are looking forward to working with them on their ambitious goals for increasing female board representation in their portfolio companies as well as female representation at senior management level,” said IFU’s Sustainability Director Birgitte Bang Nielsen.

“We are happy and excited to be part of the 2X Challenge initiative. 90% of our clients are women and all our portfolio companies provide financial products that benefit women to improve the access to financial services. With the help of the 2X Challenge criteria, we can now set further targets for improving gender equality also in leadership and corporate governance positions in our portfolio companies,” said BOPA COO Niroshani Sawanawadu.

BOPA has already taken specific initiatives to improve the share of female employees in portfolio companies, including in areas where women traditionally are not allowed to work as field loan officers. BOPA engages with local management teams on how to increase women’s participation, and define indicators on the percentage of women and KPIs to senior management and closely monitor the progress in achieving these targets.

More information:
Associate Director Antti Urvas, Finnfund, antti.urvas (a), tel +358 45 113 0547
Sustainability Director Birgitte Bang Nielsen, IFU, bbn (a), tel: +45 33 63 75 26

What is the 2X Challenge?
The “2X Challenge” calls for the G7 and other DFIs to join together to collectively mobilize $3 billion in commitments that provide women in developing country markets with improved access to leadership opportunities, quality employment, finance, enterprise support and products and services that enhance economic participation and access. Finnfund joined the initiative in May 2019.

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