Some time ago, I had a conversation with a microfinance investor. What is the greatest challenge facing the sector? – I asked. His answer: multiple borrowing – multiple borrowing getting people into too much debt; multiple borrowing transforming micro-enterprise lending into consumer finance; multiple borrowing rewriting the traditional relationship between MFIs and their clients.
Of course, multiple borrowing is present in all of these cases. But thinking about multiple borrowing along these lines misunderstands the basic situation. Multiple borrowing isn’t a reflection of some recent or extreme developments to be ascribed to runaway growth, greed, or willing ignorance. And despite press articles to the contrary, it is neither a result of heavy market penetration, nor even saturation. No, multiple borrowing is an intrinsic part of the practice, one that has been with us for years. more →