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February 16, 2021

CDC and Finnfund invest in microfinance pioneer to drive women entrepreneurship in Pakistan

CDC Group, the UK’s development finance institution and Finnfund, the Finnish development financier and impact investor, have provided a US$25 million senior unsecured loan facility to Kashf Foundation, one of the leading microfinance institutions in Pakistan.

Kashf Foundation promotes female entrepreneurship and has so far enabled more than a million low-income families across Pakistan to improve their standard of living. CDC has committed US$15 million while Finnfund has committed US$10 million.

Pakistan’s ranking for gender equality remains one of the lowest in the world. Kashf Foundation believes in creating an enabling environment for women micro-entrepreneurs and is committed to creating products and services driven by client needs and demands. With a 50% gender ratio at all staff tiers, Kashf Foundation demonstrates best practice in gender diversity and leadership development.

Roshaneh Zafar, Founder and Managing Director of Kashf Foundation, said: “We are proud to have been a trendsetter in 1996 as the first specialized microfinance organization in the country with a clear focus on women micro-entrepreneurs. For the next five years, our focus is to further enhance women’s productivity across our network of branches and develop more customized solutions for our clients, while gearing to expand outreach to over 1 million female clients.”

Kashf Foundation’s client-focused approach means that product development starts with the needs of the clients – the company offers for example health insurance solutions for recovery deposits and livestock loans.

Stephen Priestley, Managing Director, Head of Financial Services at CDC, said: ”Empowering women entrepreneurs is one of the best ways of achieving significant development impact. In the Kashf Foundation, we have the perfect partner in Pakistan to deliver on this goal.”

Kashf Foundation’s strong mission is closely linked to the Client Protection Principles. Ensuring the practice of good ethics is high on the company’s agenda. Kashf Foundation offers training courses that help build skills that are directly related to financial management, business development and vocational skills.

Ulla Huotari, Finnfund’s Investment Manager, said: “This is Finnfund’s first direct investment in Pakistan. We are looking forward to a partnership with Kashf Foundation as we share the commitment to empowering women through enabling financial services. Kashf has truly been a pioneer in the country.”

During 2020, Pakistan has been under lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. The lockdown has disproportionally impacted small business owners that are dependent on a steady income. Kashf Foundation was the first microfinance institution in the country to reschedule loan payments for its clients and has also launched a relief program to meet the immediate needs of clients from low-income households.

“Having both CDC and Finnfund as our partners means that we can continue towards our ambitious goals and make sure that our clients get the support they need through this difficult time”, said Zafar.

Most low-income households lack access to formal safety nets and are highly vulnerable to shocks such as death of the breadwinner, illness, and disease. Kashf was the first institution to offer credit life insurance in 2002 which has since become an industry practice. More recently Kashf has been able to successfully demonstrate the business case for a pro-poor women centric health insurance.

The investment is classified as a 2X Challenge gender commitment, as both CDC and Finnfund are members of the initiative that recently exceeded its initial target by committing and mobilizing $4.5 billion in capital towards women’s economic empowerment.

More information
Ulla Huotari, Investment Manager, Finnfund, tel. +358 50 594 2296, ulla.huotari (a)


Kashf is registered as a Non-Banking Micro Finance Company which is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan. Kashf was set up in 1996 as the first specialized microfinance institution of Pakistan and began operations as a Grameen replicator. Since then Kashf has successfully carved out a distinct and unique niche for itself in the microfinance sector at home and abroad by offering a suite of innovative and transformative products and services to low-income households especially women. Kashf offers appraisal backed individual lending to its clients along with other non-financial services to have a transformative impact at the household level.

CDC Group is the UK’s first impact investor with over 70 years of experience of successfully supporting the sustainable, long-term growth of businesses in South Asia and Africa. CDC is a leading player in the fight against climate change and a UK champion of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – the global blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for us all. The company has investments in over 1,200 businesses in emerging economies and a total portfolio value of $6.2bn. This year CDC will invest over $1.5bn in companies in Africa and Asia with a focus on fighting climate change, empowering women and creating new jobs and opportunities for millions of people. CDC is funded by the UK government and all proceeds from its investments are reinvested to improve the lives of millions of people in Africa and South Asia. CDC’s expertise makes it the perfect partner for private investors looking to devote capital to making a measurable environmental and social impact in countries most in need of investment.

Finnfund is a Finnish development financier and professional impact investor. We build a sustainable world by investing in responsible and profitable businesses in developing countries. Each year we invest 200–250 million euros in 20-30 projects, emphasising renewable energy, sustainable forestry, sustainable agriculture and financial institutions. Today Finnfund’s investments and commitments total about 957 million euros, half of them in Africa. The company has about 80 employees.

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 markets with improved access to leadership opportunities, quality employment, finance, enterprise support and products and services that enhance economic participation and access.

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