Microfinance in Southern Laos
Poor rural communities in Laos do not have
access to secure and reliable financial services. Consequently,
families are unable to make significant investments
in developing their livelihoods, weather
economic shocks, and save for the future.
World Education Inc. (WEI) and World Education Australia (WEAL) have been working on an ambitious initiative to establish an autonomous, locally owned and managed microfinance agency in Salavan Province in southern Laos. As a result of these efforts, Vanmai (which means “New Day” in Laos) Savings and Credit Union (SCU) was formally established in November 2010. The premise behind it was to create an institution that met the financial needs of local people, offering a safe place to save and access loans. Vanmai SCU is a regulated financial institution by the Bank of Laos, the country’s central bank and is required to provide monthly performance reports.
During its first six months of operations, the Vanmai SCU staff and Board (supported by WEAL and WE/Laos microfinance team staff) have focused on putting in place basic systems, training staff, recruiting new members, mobilizing savings and disbursing initial loans. Remarkable outcomes have been achieved. As of the end of September 2011, Vanmai SCU had 602 members from 38 villages with a savings portfolio of over $33,000 and 633 accounts. Its loan portfolio is valued at approximately $30,000 with 154 loans.
It is envisaged that by June 2012, Vanmai will be a professional organization capable of managing its own affairs. Naturally, as it continues to grow it will have ongoing training and funding needs. World Education hopes that Vanmai will come on board as a partner under WEAL’s Good Return program, which provides training and funding support to MFIs that meet certain criteria for professional standards. In this way the partnership will continue to grow and further enable Vanmai to reach many more thousands of poor rural households in Laos. Vanmai plans to reach 50 villages and more than 2,000 families (10,000 people) in the next three years.