An interview with Paula Cortes, Project Officer, ADA
Paula Cortes has been a project officer at ADA since 2016. She came to Luxembourg from Colombia with international experience in inclusive finance with a focus on products development.
How did you get involved in inclusive finance?
I studied finance and international relations in Bogotá (Colombia). I had a keen interest in development issues, cooperation and finance. I started an internship with Accion International, an NGO specialised in inclusive finance, in their Colombian hub. I was then hired as a project associate on a microsavings project and then became also a coordinator for Red Accion, Accion’s network of microfinance institutions in Latin America. My duties focused essentially on corporate governance, the development of microsaving projects and of Red Accion’s activities. In 2014, I began a Master’s degree in poverty and development at the Institute of Development Studies in the UK. After graduating, I applied for a job at ADA.
What is your key interest in inclusive finance?
Inclusive finance is a good tool for development but a more holistic approach need to be taken: holistic in the type of services proposed and in the type of actors involved. Inclusive finance services should not only be financial since these are not enough to answer to the needs of the low income population but also non-financial. The MFIs need to facilitate the access to services such as financial education, training, technical assistance and business development support. In addition, a plurality of actors is essential in the field of inclusive finance. Inclusive finance goes beyond microfinance Institutions. Training centres, mobile services providers, equipment and technical assistance providers, for instance, should become more and more involved and work together.
Could you describe the work done by ADA in inclusive finance? And what makes it different from the other inclusive finance actors?
I work within the unit in charge of networks and sector support. ADA provides financial support and technical assistance to Southern microfinance networks and institutions active in the fields of products development, transparency, consumer protection, and social performance. I coordinate two projects in Central America and the Philippines. In Central America, I work with the regional network of microfinance institutions, Redcamif. Redcamif represents 7 national networks, over 135 microfinance institutions and over 1 million clients. As an example, Redcamif calls on national microfinance institutions wanting to develop new rural green finance products, energy efficiency products, for their clients. Redcamif then selects which MFIs it will work with and ADA assists them in designing and implementing their new products. In the Philippines, I coordinate ADA’s work with the Microfinance Council of the Philippines, another national network of MFIs. I also follow up and report on projects carried out with these two national networks.
ADA is different because its methodology addresses the diversity of inclusive finance actors. ADA not only works with microfinance institutions but also with regulators, ministries, and networks. Furthermore, the projects ADA works on have a strong non-financial services component as well.
What is the biggest challenge facing inclusive finance today?
As I previously mentioned, the greatest challenge is to be able to offer clients more than just credit.
InFiNe.lu is the Luxembourg platform that brings together public, private and civil society actors involved in inclusive finance. The value of InFiNe.lu lies in the wide range of expertise characterised by the diversity of its members.
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Picture 1 © Pallab Seth