Project objectives

To strengthen financial inclusion in Southeast Asia through microfinance networks

Project Manager


  • Lao Microfinance Association (LMFA) in Laos
  • Cambodia Microfinance Association (CMA)
  • Myanmar Microfinance Association (MMFA)
  • in the Philippines with MCPI (Microfinance Council of the Philippines, Inc.)


Co-organised by ADA, the first Financial Inclusion Forum took place in July 2016 in Cambodia.

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Strengthening networks to increase financial inclusion in South-East Asia

By consolidating professional associations in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and the Philippines, ADA contributes to making this geographical area’s entire inclusive finance sector more professional. Thanks to the stronger and more competent associations, microfinance institutions are able to develop services and products that are better adapted to the needs of low-income populations.

Laos, Cambodia: a two-speed reality

The microfinance sector is experiencing varying degrees of development across Southeast Asia.

According to the World Bank, in 2014, the share of the population of over 15 years of age who held an account with a financial institution was 36 % in Laos and only 22% in Cambodia.

Although there has been a significant increase in recent years in Laos, the microfinance sector is often still in its starting stages and it is largely dominated by informal structures such as village banks. Given limited capacity, supervisory mechanisms have yet to be developed.

With thirty MFIs and around 1.2 million borrowers, Cambodia not only has the most developed industry but also the most effectively supervised and regulated. Amongst the actors, one commercial bank accounts for 20% of all microfinance clients.

In each of these three countries, the MFIs came together and formed professional organisations or national networks: the Lao Microfinance Association (LMFA) in Laos and the Cambodia Microfinance Association (CMA) in Cambodia.

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Although they are fairly recent, the professional associations and MFI networks play an essential role in accelerating financial inclusion. By
contributing to creating conditions that are favourable to the sector’s development, they represent a powerful means of extending financially inclusive products and services. Our project in South-East Asia thus aims to strengthen professional associations in Laos and Cambodia  so that, in turn, they may provide efficient support to MFIs. A further aim is to enable the associations to become real spokespeople, capable of promoting the sector before the authorities and other stakeholders. 


ADA strengthens professional organisations in three main ways

1. Support to professionnalising the associations

Depending on needs, we strengthen associations’ competences through training courses and a tailor-made follow-up schedule. This may involve carrying out audits, providing training in governance, developing the skills of the association’s personnel, taking part in strategic development, as well as supporting requests made to the regulators. As underlined by Khanmany Southammavong, who is a member of the
board of the Lao Microfinance Association (LMFA), “the continuous support ADA has given us helped us to develop a strong and central role in Laos. In particular, the differences between us and the regulators were reduced.

2. Support in the services offered to member MFIs 

By focusing on themes such as risk management, the analysis of financial performance indicators and product development, we encourage the associations to develop their services, thus ensuring that MFI competences are strengthened. In 2015, ADA contributed to designing the Certificate in Microfinance Management (MFMCC), which has become compulsory for all MFI managers in Laos. Khanmany Southammavong, who is also the executive director of the Lao MFI Patukham, tells us that “Patukham is a small MFI and we did not have the means to hire experts who could advise us on managing our MFI. Thanks to LMFA, we were able to take the MFMCC course. Its content was very rich and it provided uswith tools to improve the way we manage ourselves. Since then, Patukham has been able to reduce its bad debts, while improving its financial analysis skills.

3. Support to communication between stakeholders and coordinating their actions

We contribute to setting up standardised systems for the monitoring of financial and social indicators, and we promote transparency and the exchange of information. The latter may involve the setting up of research repositories as well as support in writing publications and developing communication materials. We contribute to the agreement reached between the three professional associations so that they may exchange the lessons learnt all along the support program, capitalise on their experience and develop synergies on common questions. Khanmany Southammavong remembers an exchange meeting with the Cambodian association as being “a unique opportunity to learn from our neighbours’ experience.


In Laos, ADA is working on promoting financial inclusion for low-income populations through consolidation and professionalisation of the country's inclusive finance sector

Lao Microfinance Association (LMFA) The Lao Microfinance Association was founded in May 2007 as the national microfinance industry network.  The association has a total of 92 members as of December 2016. These include 74 regulated microfinance institutions as well as donors, bi/multi-­lateral agencies, NGOs, service providers and resource persons working in microfinance. 72% of registered MFIs in Laos are members of the network.

ADA has had a partnership with the Lao Microfinance Association (LMFA - formerly known as Lao Microfinance Working Group) since 2010. The main objectives of the partnership were to professionalise the association and improve both its member services and sector-wide communication and transparency. 

At the end of 2016, the association underwent an evaluation of its governance and activities. The results of the evaluation were positive and proposed a set of recommendations for the improvement of the LMFA’s operations. In light of this, ADA is looking to extend its support to the financial inclusion sector in Laos for the 2018-2020 period, keeping the LMFA as the key partner on the ground.

The objectives to achieve are the following:

  • Reinforcing the LMFA’s position as the key representative body of microfinance practitioners in Laos;
  • Conducting advocacy activities to ensure the sound development of microfinance in Laos;
  • Increasing the LMFA’s outreach to include the majority of actors of the financial inclusion sector, particularly the Village Banks;
  • Developing the LMFA’s offer of services, including social performance management and the promotion of client protection principles;
  • Creating and disseminating sector information.

In 2019, ADA and LuxDev initiated a collaboration within the framework of the LAO/030 project in order for ADA and its long-standing partner, the LMFA association, to provide technical assistance for the creation of Village Banks in the four provinces in which LuxDev operates. The first phase of the project will cover the last six months of 2019 and will then be extended fo 2,5 years.


May 2019

FDC launches its report "The Inclusion Imperative: A Call to Action"

FDC’s latest report, The Inclusion Imperative: A Call to Action, explores priority issues, key trends and proposes specific recommendations to assist policy makers and regulators in creating more inclusive economies and societies across the Asia-Pacific region.

The report represents a “call to action” for stakeholders to combine their knowledge, resources and efforts to achieve equitable and sustainable outcomes through a more concrete dialogue on the institutional and legal reforms needed to make meaningful progress in support of the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. 

The recommendations in this report are the result of the discussions and contributions of participants of two major policy initiatives implemented by FDC in 2018; namely the Asia-Pacific Financial Inclusion Forum (Tokyo, 27-28 June) and the Mekong Inclusive Growth Forum (Bangkok, 2-3 October) which was organised thanks to the support and contribution of ADA, together with the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI), Banking with the Poor (BWTP), the Thailand Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund’s SHIFT ASEAN Programme, which is supported by the Australian Government.

Read the report

October 2018

Mekong Financial Inclusion Forum 2018

The Mekong Financial Inclusion Forum 2018 opened with a speech by Corinne Molitor, Chair of ADA's Board of Directors. The day before, the representatives of the networks met for a workshop on the theme "How to ensure the lasting impact of microfinance associations".

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December 2017

Strengthening the Myanmar Professional Association: at the core of ADA's work 

In 2017 ADA launched a strategic project with the aim of structuring and relaunching the activities of the Myanmar MicroFinance Association (MMFA). The end of the year is an opportunity to make an assessment of this activity, which saw the direct involvement of ADA's first expatriate, Wendy Medrano Lazo. At the same time, we will have the opportunity to have an overview of the objectives for 2018: another year dedicated to the support of this organization which is becoming a key player for the development of inclusive finance in Myanmar.

After a procedure started several months ago, in May 2017 the MMFA obtained the permanent license, as local NGO, from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA). This allowed the organization to start collecting membership fees. Today the Myanmar MicroFinance Association (MMFA) gathers 80 MFI members, serving 2 million clients.

All the members took part to the Association’s General Assembly (GA), where the new strategic plan over 3 years was presented and the new Executive Committee composed of 15 members was elected.

As side-event, the MMFA organized the "Stakeholders meeting for Policy Dialogue". This major event, carried out in collaboration with ADA and USAID, brought together some 200 financial inclusion professionals from Myanmar, including the Financial Regulation Department (FRD), MFIs from all around the country, donors, support agencies, the Central Bank, banks and other relevant stakeholders. Participants discussed the legal and regulatory framework and identified potential changes to the Microfinance Law.

This effort of collaboration and coordination between the various actors of the sector was maintained throughout the year, through the meetings of the members organized every 2 months, with an average participation of 70 participants, but also setting up the HR Club and the COO Club, which bring together respectively the HR managers and the Operations Managers of the MFIs. In addition, to promote the exchange of experiences, two other working groups have been created: the Policy Working Group and the Information & Technology Working Group.

The Association also has continued efforts to advocate for a suitable regulatory framework and has maintained a close relationship with the regulator. One of ADA's challenges this year has been to support the MMFA in the recruitment and training of its human resources, in the implementation of procedures as well as in the improvement of its facilities. Two people were recruited as part of this process: a finance officer and an operations officer. An Executive Director is under recruitment. At the same time, operational and financial procedures were put in place to structure the association’s activities and its offices have been equipped with computers, desks, printer and all the equipment necessary for its activity.

This reinforcement on various levels allowed the relaunch of two partnerships of crucial importance: a project with USAID, which guaranteed a donation of 100,000 USD to support the operations and the implementation of trainings and a collaboration with IFC, for the realization of a training program in Responsible Finance.

In addition, the MMFA, in collaboration with several partners and donors, organized 7 training sessions that in total trained 140 professionals in the sector, including credit and middle management agents.

In 2018 ADA would like to continue its partnership with MMFA with a three-year project that will support the implementation of its new strategic plan, with 4 key priorities:

  1. To strengthen its organizational structure and its governance in an effective and formalized way
  2. To deliver high quality, demand-driven services to support the growth of the microfinance sector
  3. To facilitate the collaboration among microfinance practitioners
  4. To keep advocating for a healthy market environment within an appropriate legal and regulatory framework


Wendy Medrano

April 2017

ADA launches the Myanmar Microfinance Association Strengthening Program

The Myanmar Microfinance Association (MMFA) and ADA have established a new partnership aiming at developing the association’s organizational and technical capacity. Mrs. Wendy Medrano has been appointed ADA’s on-site Technical Advisor for MMFA for an initial period of 1 year and has been based in Yangon since the end of March 2017.

ADA’s technical assistance aims to support MMFA in building effective and formalized governance as well as strengthening its organizational structure, including supporting the board to set-up MMFA’s secretariat, conduct its operations and define its operational systems and procedures. Recruitment and training of local technical staff is one of the main objectives as well as the development of services to members (including data collection and trainings).

MMFA was created in 2013 and obtained its temporary license as a non-profit association from the Ministry of Home Affairs in October 2016. The MMFA is the national association gathering microfinance practitioners (registered microfinance institutions including banks, NGOs and private companies) and other relevant stakeholders working to improve access to appropriate and affordable financial services for the poor and unbanked people in Myanmar.


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