ASA, one of the leading NGO Microfinance Institutions (NGO-MFI) in Bangladesh, has long been providing Technical Assistance (TA) to numerous Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) around the world. To date, ASA experts have worked in 15 countries providing TA to MFIs with the intention of enhancing their institutional capacity to achieve financial and operational self-sustainability.
During the course of this work, ASA experts realized that there were large numbers of poor people in these countries who did not have access to affordable financing and that this segment existed mainly because local MFIs could not scale themselves up to meet the demand. More often than not, these MFIs could not grow due to lack of funds and limited institutional capacity. Yet again, these MFIs restricted themselves to the urban areas whilst leaving out the people in the rural areas who are disadvantaged to begin with.
With the objective of reaching out to these people, ASA began talking to international investors who were introduced to ASA’s cost effective microfinance model as an investment proposition as a mechanism for investing in the poor of the world.
With microfinance being globally recognized as a sector for viable investment with near-to-market returns and after reviewing ASA’s global performance record and management strengths institutional as well as individual investors stepped in readily.
ASA INTERNATIONAL (ASAI) was thus born in April 2007 with the mission of financially empowering the poorest and deprived population of the world.
To pool investments, a global equity investment fund called Catalyst Microfinance Investors (CMI) was formed in 2006 by Mr. Md. Shafiqual Haque Choudhury, President of ASA, and Mr. Dirk Brouwer, Managing Director of Sequoia. Sequoia is an independent international corporate finance advisory and private equity firm based out of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
CMI has been structured as a private investment fund that makes equity investments in high potential and high growth MFIs globally. At the end of 2007, CMI closed with a total investment commitment of USD 125 million from its partners and investors.
ASA International is CMI’s primary investment vehicle i.e. almost all of CMI’s resources is exclusively committed for investment in ASA International MFIs around the world.
With the equity provided by CMI, and by leveraging debt funds from individual countries, ASA International opens MFIs in various countries a process known as greenfielding. Greenfield MFIs are startups that bear the ASA name and use the ASA methodology that is ASA Cost effective and Sustainable Microfinance Model for microfinance operations.
ASA Bangladesh provides technical assistance and knowledge advisory support required to start these greenfield operations up by deputing senior staff members for a period of time. Once a country operation matures, ASA International staff member in that country takes up implementation responsibilities. This technology and knowledge transfer fosters capacity building of ASA International staff members and ensures that the ASA methodology for microfinance is properly implemented in each country.
At present ASAI is working in the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Ghana, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Cambodia and some other countries, such as, Indonesia, China, etc. are in the pipelines. Up to August 2010 there are 555,142 borrowers in the eight operating countries with a total portfolio of over USD 66.48 millions