Microfinance consists mainly of micro-loans (less than EUR 25,000) tailored to micro-enterprises (91% of all European businesses) and people who would like to become self-employed but are facing difficulties in accessing the traditional banking services. Throughout the European Union, 99% of all start-ups are micro or small enterprises and one third of those were launched by unemployed people.
Compared to the microfinance markets in South Asia, South America or Africa, the European microfinance market is a young, highly heterogeneous but growing market segment, notably in new Member States and some western countries, usually when the regulatory framework is conducive to this activity, with micro-credit institutions aiming at self sustainability, increased micro-lending capacity and, in some cases, transformation into banks.
Being a crucial tool to overcome the effects of the financial crisis, we have been involved in the European microfinance sector since 2000, providing funding (equity and loans), guarantees and technical assistance to a broad range of financial intermediaries, from small non-bank financial institutions to well established microfinance banks to make microfinance a fully-fledged segment of the European financial sector. In this way, we pursue core European Union's objectives: entrepreneurship, growth and job creation.
We have developed our know-how in the field by managing specific initiatives mandated by the European Commission, such as the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), JEREMIE, JASMINE, the European Parliament Preparatory Action (EPPA) and the European Progress Microfinance Facility and by setting up operations on our own resources.