Care supports financial inclusion in the fight against extreme poverty

Societe Generale is one of the major partners of the NGO Care France with projects supported in Africa since 2008 in education, the empowerment of women and financial education.

Philippe Lévêque, Director-General of Care France, identifies several challenges for the African continent. "Beyond the major issue of climate, the first challenge is demographic with the need to create jobs, especially for the largest population of young people in the world. The management of natural resources is also particularly important so that, above all, these benefit all the inhabitants of the various countries and not foreign investors. Another decisive challenge concerns women's rights and their empowerment." In this area, Care has developed the Associations Villageoises et de Crédit (AVEC) programme.

AVEC programme, 4 million women supported

AVEC is based on the ancient tontine system. Each person pays into a fund that will then be used in turn by the members to invest in a project. "This may be the purchase of an animal the milk from which will later be sold, thus creating a sustainable economic activity." Through this initiative, which has supported more than 4 million women around the world since its creation, Care sets up pillars for the empowerment of women and, above all, participates in their financial education with a view to their access to banking services. This theme may appear to be far removed from the reality of isolated villagers. However, it is closely linked to the development of countries. "Many of these people will never have access to loans, even microloans. At the same time, the simple fact of entering a bank is often a factor of great stress for these very vulnerable people who see bankers as distant noblemen." But, these women do not have any possibility of borrowing money, they can save small amounts and, above all, save together in order to combine their strengths. "This is precisely what we offer with the AVEC programme. It is based on a very structured open source methodology that involves a series of steps." The conditions with which to comply include the compulsory application of an interest rate that favours an understanding of how money works by showing coins and banknotes. "The women invest in turn in a human-sized community that places their trust in them with very low sums reimbursed generally in three months. This access to financial education helps them to gradually understand the basic notion of economics, followed by notions of ownership and, later, law. For example, a woman wants to transfer her money to a loved one. She will learn about her rights and the need to defend them in order to protect what she has helped build. This is the ethical model we are setting up through our development projects."Here again, according to Philippe Lévêque, the challenge is mainly: "Women provide 70 % of the agricultural work in the world but only own 10 % of the land."

The challenge of access to banking services

Apart from a strategic challenge for banks around the world, access to banking services by populations in Africa represents an essential element for the development of populations. "Firstly, it allows money to be protected from theft or natural disasters. In December 2004, many inhabitants of the villages affected by the tsunami saw all their savings, held in cash, carried away by the waters. But access to banking services also favours access to borrowing and, therefore, to investment. It is also an essential requirement for the development of solidarity-based funds with insurance policies on property - the loss of a harvest as a result of a natural disaster, for example - or people, such as complementary health cover. Therefore, financial inclusion for the poorest populations is a fundamental tool for development and emancipation."

Therefore, financial inclusion for the poorest populations is a fundamental tool for development and emancipation

Philippe Lévêque, Director-General of Care France

Societe Generale's Priority Africa Partner

In line with its own commitments, Societe Generale continues to support Care France through a priority Africa partnership for the 2017-2019 period. Since the launch of the partnership in 2008, Societe Generale has provided almost €3.2 million of support for the association in the African continent alone. It has allowed more than 138,000 people in seven countries – Benin, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Chad – to benefit from development actions.

Input for strategic thinking

Collaborating closely with an NGO that has ties with the main international institutions such as the UN, the European Union, and the World Bank, is important for the two organisations. "It implies great transparency and irreproachable conduct on both sides. Our 102,000  private donors would not understand if we agreed to finance a company that had a strategy and actions in contradiction with our own undertakings. Thus, we talk with the group's executive decision-makers. No subject is out of bounds. We benefit from all the knowledge they can offer us by putting us in contact with their own network of experts and partners, in particular in terms of the challenges faced by the African continent."

A support lever for international funding

The financial support of private partners such as Societe Generale is all the more important in that it has a leverage effect for the allocation of funds from major institutions such as the European Union. "For example, in order to obtain €5 million of funding from the EU, the project firstly must have benefited from private support. Thus, the partnership signed with Societe Generale represents much more than the sums initially provided."

A commitment by Societe Generale's staff members

Although the support to Care France is now coordinated in priority by the Société Générale Foundation, many initiatives have been implemented over the years by the group's different teams. "We have collected more than €1.1 million thanks to the mobilisation of employees in bike rides, emergency collections and even donations through the very innovative system of terminals installed permanently at Head Office. The credit card bearing the effigy of our association alone has generated €339,000 in ten years." Societe Generale also encourages skills-based sponsorship every time that it responds to a real challenge for Care France. "We can count on a full response from our representatives who offer high-level skills to which we would never otherwise have had access. At the moment, a legal expert is helping us with the question of agricultural value chains."

Key figures

  • 1983: creation of Care France

  • 48 employees at the head office in Paris

  • 500 staff members in the field

  • €40 million annual budget

  • 15 % of resources come from enterprises

  • 88 % of the budget allocated to social missions in 2017

The concept of financial inclusion

According to the World Bank, "financial inclusion means that individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way."

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