More than 300,000 small-scale entrepreneurs in some of the world’s most challenging economies are expected to be financed over the next five years by PlaNet Bank, a new global investment company for microfinance institutions has been launched.


 It is a joint initiative of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, and PlaNet Finance, an international non-profit organisation dedicated to the development of microfinance.


Based in Paris, PlaNet Bank will be capitalised at €31.5mn (US$38.2mn), of which IFC will invest €6mn (US$7.3mn). PlaNet Finance and its investment arm PlaNet Investments will provide equity and quasi-equity to PlaNet Bank together with private investors such as Axa and Soci&eaute;té Générale and bilateral and multilateral agencies.


PlaNet Bank will create or invest in 15 microfinance institutions over the next five years.


At least 60% of these will be in African countries such as Cote d ‘Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritania, Senegal and Togo. The rest are expected to be in PlaNet Finance’s network countries such as Argentina, Brazil, China, India, and Mexico.


In the past 30 years the microfinance industry has expanded rapidly, in large part through the commercialization of specialized financial institutions that began as NGOs or donor-funded projects. IFC is one of the largest investors in commercial microfinance with a worldwide microfinance portfolio of more than US$260mn. PlaNet Finance in turn provides technical assistance and consulting services that have helped more than 800 microfinance institutions reach self-sustainability since 1998. It has also increased microfinance institutions “access to financial markets through PlaNet Rating, its rating subsidiary.


PlaNet Bank will build on the strong experience of PlaNet Finance in providing microfinance institutions with services such as IT support, training, and capacity building as well as funding. PlaNet Finance has a staff of more than 150 people in 15 countries, and will provide management services to investees, plus additional technical assistance as needed.


“This initiative demonstrates IFC’s continued commitment to and confidence in the microfinance industry, which provides the poor with much-needed affordable access to financial services,” says Jyrki Koskelo, director of IFC’s global financial markets department. “By helping experienced partners such as PlaNet Finance become owners and managers of local microfinance institutions, we believe we can help create a more sustainable, far-reaching microfinance industry that will benefit some of the world’s poorest people.”
“PlaNet Bank will complement the services offered by PlaNet Finance,” adds Jacques Attali, president of PlaNet Finance. “It will help build a stronger microfinance sector by helping existing organisations transform into full-fledged, regulated financial institutions, and by creating new microfinance institutions in countries that do not have enough of them today.”


Through the new initiative, IFC and PlaNet Finance are supporting the Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty. At the same time, the two organisations are supporting the UN Year of Microcredit’s objectives of promoting sustainable access to financial services and encouraging innovation and new partnerships to expand the reach of microfinance. In two of PlaNet Bank’s target countries, Togo and Democratic Republic of Congo, more than 70% of the population earns less than a dollar a day.


Likewise, PlaNet Bank will develop financial institutions to serve the poor in India and China, which together are home to the largest number of the poor on the planet. Of the 2.8bn poor around the world living on less than two dollars a day, only 70mn have access to credit.