Caribbean Microfinance Alliance

The Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards for the Caribbean

Jamaica, Belize, Suriname, Cop 2013 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards

Jamaica, Belize and Suriname were in winner’s row at the 2nd Annual Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards ceremony, held at the Courtleigh Hotel & Suites, Kingston on Thursday, October 31, 2013.

Access Financial Services Ltd., Jamaica and Belize’s La Inmaculada Credit Union, took home US$5,000 each for Excellence in Microfinance – Product Innovation and Excellence in Microfinance – Transparency, respectively.  The Excellence in Microentrepreneurship in Suriname Award of US$3,000 went to Chef Jurgen Emilio Boodie of Restaurant JiJi’s.  All awardees also received a plaque and video of their microenterprise or microfinance institution.

The Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards programme which recognizes Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) and microentrepreneurs that have demonstrated remarkable success in the Caribbean, aims to raise awareness about microfinance in the Caribbean and about the important role microentrepreneurs play in regional economies.

Financed by the Citi Foundation, it is administered by the Caribbean MicroFinance Alliance, a network of over 20 microfinance practitioners and advocates working to promote the development of a responsible and sustainable industry in the region.  The CMFA is a beneficiary of the Caribbean Capacity Building Project (CARIB-CAP II) which is jointly funded by the Multilateral Investment Fund (a member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group), European Commission, Citi Foundation and Caribbean Development Bank and managed by the Jamaica-based consultancy firm, Development Options Ltd.  CARIB-CAP II aims to create a more developed microfinance industry in the English speaking Caribbean by improving MFI outreach and financial performance and fostering a knowledge sharing eco system for MFIs in the region.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Peter Moses, Managing Director & Citi Country Officer Jamaica, said that the Bank was proud to work with its partners “in supporting the journey from ambition to achievement.”

He said that “Citi’s goal is to build strategic partnerships capable of reaching the scale necessary to tackle the more relevant social issues in each market/region in which the Bank operates and the partnership with the CMFA and IDB, through the CARIB-CAP II programme is a strong example of this”.

The awards programme, Mr. Moses said, is also “part of Citi’s commitment to the economic empowerment and financial inclusion of the communities where we live and work.”  He noted too, that this year Citi is financing 71 initiatives throughout Latin America and the Caribbean with over US$5.2 million in contributions as they believe that “microfinance institutions are best suited to drive change based on their profound knowledge of the communities and their needs.”

IDB Country Representative, Therese Turner-Jones said that equitable access to financing for microentrepreneurs was still a challenge in the English-speaking Caribbean and the CARIB-CAP project, through its support to MFIs and credit unions was playing a critical role in reversing this trend.

She noted that the project was delivering significant benefits in terms of capacity-building and knowledge-sharing, coupled with support to the CMFA.  She went on to say that “the success of Restaurant JiJi’s, aided in part by micro-credit, clearly demonstrated that “empowering micro and small businesses does work.”

Ramesh Persaud, Chairman of CMFA and Director, Mitzian Turner, pointed to the growth of the Alliance now at 23 members in 9 countries as proof that the Alliance “is geared to take the regional microfinance industry to the next level.”

Access Financial Services was recognized for its “Microbiz Partner Loan” the first of its kind in Jamaica to require neither physical collateral nor a guarantor.  The loan programme also features a shorter and less intrusive loan process and is now serving more than 4,400 clients while maintaining a portfolio-at-risk (PAR-30) of 5.6%.

Established in 2000, Access Financial Services has a network of 15 branches serving over 15,000 active loan clients throughout Jamaica.  Last year the company recorded a 15% growth in client base, 65% of whom are women and 63% of whom are from low to lower middle income groups.  82% are from the rural areas of Jamaica.  This is the second year that the company is winning an award.

Belize’s La Inmaculada Credit Union Ltd., was recognized for its dedication to informing clients of the terms and details of their financial services and actively educating and training them on how best to utilize the Credit Union’s services. In operation since 1949, the company enjoyed 15% growth in 2012 and had a portfolio of 597 active loan clients and a portfolio-at-risk (PAR-30) of 4.3%.

Chef Jurgen Boodie and his girlfriend Abygail started a catering business in 2006 which blossomed into Restaurant JiJi’s in 2010.  The business employs 10 and the recent purchase of a neighbouring bar has seen an increase in capacity from 22 to 60 guests and an expanded menu.  The duo support their local community by collecting money for a local orphanage and hosting an annual event for the children.  Restaurant JiJi’s was nominated for the Citi Microentrepreneurship Award by Finatrust de Trustbank NV which provides financial services to the company in Suriname.


The Winners

Award for Excellence in Microfinance - Product Innovation: Access Financial Services Ltd - Jamaica

Established in 2000, Access serves over 15,000 clients through a network of 15 branches throughout Jamaica.

These branches are strategically located in corporate and rural town centres, easily accessible to customers even in deep rural towns who also benefit from a cadre of marketing representatives assigned to each branch and an impressive 81.66% of loans have been to customers in rural areas of Jamaica.

Since opening its doors, Access Financial Services Ltd., has been particularly welcomed by customers in the low to lower middle group, now 63% of its customer base. The company has also won kudos for empowering women who account for 74.67 % of the total number of customers.

Access Financial Services boasts 15,070 active loan clients and total assets of US$9,548,558.80 (end of 2012) and an annual compound growth rate of 12.85%. The company has also grown its customer base by 15.38%. Access's Microbiz Partner Loan is the first of its kind in Jamaica to require neither physical collateral nor a guarantor. Developed as a result of focus group sessions with clients, the Microbiz Partner Loan also features a shorter and less intrusive loan process and is now serving more than 4,400 clients, while maintaining a portfolio-at-risk (PAR-30) of 5.6%.

Award for Excellence in Microfinance - Transparency: La Inmaculada Credit Union Ltd - Belize

La Inmaculada Credit Union Ltd (LICU), has since 1949 earned a reputation for providing financial support to underserved communities in Belize.

LICU offers a special facility which qualifies the under privileged to obtain a matching grant for savings and once this minimum savings level is reached, the beneficiaries can access Quick Credit Loans.

These loans are encouraged for income generation purposes and recorded income and expenses are required for qualification for future loans. Savings are also incorporated as part of the repayment loan, thus nurturing savings habits and the achievement of economic stability.

The credit union makes a concerted effort to reach youth and women, the latter of which account for 53.4% of their 597 active loan clients (end of 2012).

With a gross micro credit portfolio (2012) of US$971,666.44 and loan disbursement (2012) of US$836,145.42 (2012), LICU hosts training sessions through its learning centre in response to the needs of its customers. LICU has demonstrated its dedication to not just inform clients of the terms and details of their financial services upfront, but also to actively educate their clients and train them in how best to utilize LICU's services.

Award for Excellence in Micro-entrepreneurship in Suriname: Jurgen Emilio Boodie 

Jurgen Emilio Boodie worked in many different restaurants and later, operated a catering business from home with his girlfriend Aby, before realizing their dream of opening their own restaurant.

In 2006, they opened the doors of Restaurant Ji Ji's pooling their combined skills, working from sunup to sundown to deliver tasty and affordable meals at their Waterkant address.

Ji Ji's Restaurant now boasts a capacity for 60 guests, up from 22, and has been positively reviewed by guests including on the noted travel industry website "Trip Advisor" and featured in several popular magazines.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Jurgen is already working to increase market share. The annual tradition of launching a new menu will this year include the opening of the bar as well as the introduction of a Tapas menu. They have already created a "students menu", specially priced for the local and foreign students who frequent Ji Ji's and also have "healthy options" as they promote healthy eating among their customers. Ji Ji's also gives back to the community, each year hosting a treat for children from a local orphanage.

Finatrust de Trustbank N.V., has supported Jurgen and Aby throughout their journey and they are truly grateful. As Jurgen says, "a dream big or small, will be nothing without starting capital."

The Finalists

Institute of Private Enterprise Development - Guyana

The Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED) boasts eleven branches and 84 employees, 1997 active loan clients (2012) of which 25% are women and a gross microcredit portfolio (2012) of US$1,555,000.

IPED loans represent 2% of loans made by commercial banks in Guyana but constitute an impressive 45% of all business loan accounts in the country. The company ensures transparency in its transactions with customers encouraging full disclosure at all stages of the loan process and clients are assessed for their ability to pay and to ensure they are not borrowing multiple times or over borrowing.

IPED's MicroBoost product is especially popular since it requires no collateral, no late fees. The design was informed by the experiences of the company's loan officers particularly among a previously under served group of microenterprises without collateral, some operating informally.

Helen Muntslag - Suriname

Helen Muntslag understands the business of beauty. She has invested a decade in ensuring that Kapsalon Elmitch in Suriname has become a household name in her community of Enrico Benjaminlaan.

This microentrepreneur has steadily grown her business where she is the sole professional attending to her customers' hair care needs, continually expanding her skill base by taking professional classes to stay at the cutting edge of the hairdressing business.

She sometimes gives discounted rates to those unable to pay full price and provides free service for a group of 10 senior citizens and the immobile every fortnight. She is preparing now for further expansion of the business with the introduction of manicure and pedicure services to complement her hairdressing.

Helen Muntslag has been supported throughout her journey by Finatrust de Trustbank N.V., and credits her continuous attendance at training courses and workshops to learn new techniques from master international stylists for her success.

Herman Deekman - Suriname

Herman Deekman, of Suriname started his entrepreneurial journey as a vegetable farmer. Later, recognizing the need for expensive fertilizer for his farm, he decided to raise chickens with the double benefit of producing the much-needed fertilizer and eggs for sale.

In a short time, the income earned from the sale of eggs began to outstrip vegetable sales and Deekman made the considered decision to switch to chicken farming full time. He has now also expanded into pig rearing, virtually doubling his annual sales.

The farm, with just two employees including Deekman, now supplies the surrounding community with eggs, chicken and pork meat and Deekman has plans for even further expansion and diversification including the rearing of cows, and planting of bananas for sale and as pig food.

Herman Deekman has been supported throughout this journey by Godo Bank and says his determination to succeed, positive attitude, innovativeness and adaptability are what makes him successful.

About Citi Foundation

The Citi Foundation is committed to the economic empowerment and financial inclusion of individuals and families, particularly those in need, in the communities where we work so that they can improve their standard of living. Globally, the Citi Foundation targets its strategic giving to priority focus areas: Microfinance, Enterprise Development, Youth Education and Livelihoods, and Financial Capability and Asset Building. The Citi Foundation works with its partners in Microfinance and Enterprise Development to support environmental programs and innovations. Additional information can be found at


About the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF)

The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group, was established in 1993, and is funded by 39 donor countries. MIF supports private sector-led development benefitting the poor and low-income populations—households, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, and small farmers. It aims to give them the tools to boost their incomes by funding projects in three broad access areas: access to markets and the skills to compete in those markets, access to finance, and access to basic services. MIF is the largest technical assistance provider in Latin America and the Caribbean, leveraging US$100 million in project funds each year. (