Although the practice can be traced back centuries, microfinance as we know it is commonly credited to the movement started by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus in the 1970s. And that movement continues to grow, as donors and civil society alike emphasize the importance of financial inclusion — or providing affordable financial services to the poor and disadvantaged sections of society — in the developing world.
There are three sources of microfinance services: formal institutions like rural banks and cooperatives, semiformal ones such as nongovernmental organizations, and informal groups including money lenders. Women and small entrepreneurs benefit the most from microfinance.
The biggest microfinance institution is BRAC in Bangladesh. The country’s Asian neighbors have also widely adopted the practice and play host to some of the world’s largest MFIs.
Devex ranked the top 10 MFIs in terms of staff size. The below list also includes information on active borrowers and gross loan portfolio. Check out the Devex jobs board for career opportunities with these and other groups.