Leading Microfinance Practitioners and World Thought Leaders gather for Dubai’s First Microfinance Conference

Published November 6th, 2006 - 02:10 GMT

Leading microfinance practitioners, high-ranking government officials, UN representatives, financial experts and prominent private sector players from around the world, discussed ways to develop the microfinance sector in the MENA region during the first day of a high-profile Microfinance Conference in Dubai yesterday.

The two-day program entitled "Microfinance in the MENA region: A tool to fight poverty and unemployment" is being hosted by premier non-profit organization PlaNet Finance UAE, in association with the Mohamed Bin Rashid Establishment for Young Business Leaders. The program has been organized with a view to spreading the word about the tremendous work being done in the Arab world in the microfinance field, and at doing more. Focusing primarily on the Middle East and the Gulf region, the forum will address the role microfinance can play in the fight against poverty and unemployment.

Adding further impetus to the cause of microfinance, Muhammad Yunus, President of the PlaNet Finance Honorary Committee, widely considered to be the ‘Father of Microfinance’, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last month along with The Grameen Foundation, the microcredit institution he founded 30 years ago. “This nomination finally gives microfinance, a major tool to fight poverty and ignorance -major sources of violence- the global acknowledgement it needs”, said Jacques Attali, President of PlaNet Finance.

“PlaNet Finance, a non profit organization dedicated to the development of microfinance worldwide, whose committee of Honour Dr. Yunus presides, is very pleased with the decision of the jury of Oslo, “Attali added.

Prominent speakers at the conference included H.E. Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister, Ministry of Economy UAE; Jacques Attali, President, PlaNet Finance; H.E. Sheikh Sultan Khaled Al Qasimi, President, PlaNet Finance UAE and Chairman, Gulf Holdings and Patrice Paoli, Ambassador of France to the United Arab Emirates. Other distinguished speakers include Abdul Baset Al Janahi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Establishment for Young Business Leaders; Barbara Castek, CEO, Dubai Aid and Humanitarian City; Claire Cabanel Rey, Executive Director, PlaNet Finance UAE; Nathalie Goulet, member of the French Senate and Alex Pollock, UNRWA; Debbie Arnold, Visa; Mustafa Bidouj, Sanabel.

Speaking about the event, Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of Economy, UAE observed: “Such a distinguished gathering of attendees is an indication of a defining moment in the history of the Middle East.” “By uniting experts and decision makers, the conference will examine ways of supporting microfinance in a regional and global setting. “

Over the span of two days, participants will discuss various microfinance-related topics, including challenges faced by Microfinance Institutions in the Middle East; the role Banks and Private Sector Investors can play in the development of microfinance; how corporations, private foundations, benefactors, Governments and Public Agencies can support the development of the microfinance sector in their countries; and whether microfinance is necessary in the GCC countries.

While the concept of Microfinance is relatively new to the Middle East region, Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) have experienced rapid growth and dynamic expansion, from just 129,000 active clients in 1999 to over 1.5 million today. Having passed the initial start-up phase, MFIs in the Middle East are now concentrating, expanding and consolidating their activities resulting in the emergence of new sets of challenges.  The conference promises to address these challenges and explore methods of supporting the rapid growth of the MFIs in this region.

The conference will be attended and addressed by representatives of various organizations such as The Grameen Foundation, CGAP (USA), IFC, SANABEL (Microfinance Arab Network, Egypt), UNRWA (Palestine), National Microfinance Bank (Jordan), Al Amana (Morocco), Portland Trust (UK), MicroCred (France), BankMuscat (Oman), Visa (USA), Abdul Latif Jameel Company (Saudi Arabia), USAID (Palestine) and PlaNet Finance, among others.

“We have received an incredible response from all the attendees, making our efforts over the past couple of months truly worthwhile,” said Claire Cabanel Rey, Executive Director, PlaNet Finance UAE. “I’d like to personally thank every person who has helped to make this conference such a grand success”.

For more information on the conference, please visit

About PlaNet Finance
PlaNet Finance is an international non-profit organization, which aims at alleviating poverty by contributing to the development of the microfinance sector. Its goal is to support these efforts by facilitating interactions between the different Microfinance Institutions (MFIs), and providing them with operational services in terms of capacity building and financing to facilitate their growth. PlaNet Finance also works with governments and international agencies to facilitate the creation of an efficient microfinance sector.

PlaNet Finance, based in Paris, France, has developed operations in more than 60 countries and has established an international network of 30 affiliated offices supporting its actions. For more information on PlaNet Finance, please visit www.planetfinance.org

About PlaNet Finance UAE
PlaNet Finance UAE was set up in mid 2004. It contributes to PlaNet Finance’s mission by raising funds for PlaNet Finance programs, building awareness on microfinance in the United Arab Emirates and in the Middle East. It implements Microfinance programs in the MENA region and aims at developing projects to encourage individuals - especially young people – to become productive citizens of their societies. For more information on PlaNet Finance UAE, please visit www.planetfinance.org.ae

About the Mohamed Bin Rashid Establishment for Young Business Leaders
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for Young Business Leaders, launched on June 12, 2002 is the first initiative of the Dubai Development and Investment Authority and is chaired by Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohamed Al Maktoum. The vision of the Establishment is to nurture the domestic entrepreneurial spirit in Dubai and catalyze the development and growth of a key sector of the economy, the Small and Medium Business sector. To this end, the Establishment offers various incentive measures and well co-ordinated programs to the local business community. The services of the SME extend to both entrepreneurs with an existing business and budding entrepreneurs.


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