History

Microfinance was introduced into Azerbaijan in the mid-1990s as a strategy for addressing the economic requirements of as many as 1,000,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees who were uprooted during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia. In 1996 a group of international NGOs (INGOs) began offering microfinance services to local low-income & war affected population in an effort to create income and employment opportunities. They started meet informally to share information about their operational experiences to address the constraints facing INGOs delivery credit with interest rates aimed at achieve sustainability. In October 2001, members of this informal, inter-agency working group organized the “First Annual Micro finance Conference in Azerbaijan” to educate and inform the broader community of the importance of microfinance in the country and decided to formalize the group into an association that would serve as the focal point on microfinance in Azerbaijan. As a result ten INGOs presented on this conference, including ACDI/VOCA, ADRA, FINCA Azerbaijan, Norwegian Humanitarian Enterprise (NHE), Norwegian Refugee Council(NRC), Mercy Corps (MC), OXFAM, International Organization for Migration(IOM), Save the Children(SC) and World Vision International, signed a Memorandum of Understanding and developed by-laws which defined the purpose, activities, organizational structure and governance of the network, and thus officially inaugurated the Azerbaijan Micro-finance Association (AMFA). Of these ten organizations, nine provide micro-finance services to the clients. One of them - Mercy Corps is not providing direct micro-finance services to the clients, but become one of the active members of AMFA because of being umbrella grant manager for a 6-year $45-million Azerbaijan Humanitarian Assistance Program, one component of which channels micro-finance services through other INGOs.The increasing participation in microfinance by international investors is in large part a reflection of microfinance’s growing reputation and general acceptance as a powerful tool for poverty alleviation and for promoting self-reliance among the world’s poor. For some regions, such as those located close to Nagorno- Karabakh where the majority of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) reside, or for Nakhchivan, which as an autonomous exclave is isolated from the rest of the country, microfinance programs are crucial in satisfying the basic needs of the people.Microfinance programmes initiated by international NGOs helped spur other "best practice" microfinance institutions. During the past 20 years the number of microfinance institutions (MFIs) in the country has steadily increased making the microfinance sector one of the more active participants in the process of economic development. At present, there are 45 non-bank credit organizations in the financial market.