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date: 17 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the impact of microfinance—the provision of financial services to poor and low-income populations, usually in the global South—on poverty. Microfinance is regarded as a financial market solution to the social problem of poverty, promising poverty alleviation in a market-friendly and cost-efficient way. Proponents hope that the financial inclusion of poor and low-income population segments will help them cope better with multifaceted problems of poverty, in particular their uncertain and low incomes. This article first provides an overview of microfinance, focusing on its economic and gender impacts, before tracing the microfinance sector’s historical origins and rise. It also considers the practices of the microfinance sector as well as the critical debates over microfinance. Finally, it describes three sets of recent developments relating to microfinance: a spate of crises including overindebtedness and collapse, new methods and mission, and the sector’s expanding scope of activities.

Keywords: microfinance, financial services, poverty, poverty alleviation, financial inclusion, gender, microfinance sector, overindebtedness

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