First and foremost, [First MicroFianance Bank] is an institution — not a project, not a programme, but a permanent establishment of one of the most important sectors in any nation’s economy — the banking sector….

Enabling underprivileged populations to have the opportunity to change their futures has always been a cornerstone of the Aga Khan Development Network’s endeavour … The provision of financial services is a powerful vehicle to combat exclusion and contribute to broad social and economic development.

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His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims, today joined Prime Minister Okilov of Tajikistan in inaugurating the First MicroFinanceBank in Tajikistan, a bank which will expand access to a wide range of banking services for the people of Tajikistan.

In countries such as Tajikistan, villagers in remote areas must travel long distances at great expense to access financial services. In addition, commercial banks often do not find it profitable to offer services to the urban poor or to populations living in remote locations.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, the Aga Khan remarked:

Enabling underprivileged populations to have the opportunity to change their futures has always been a cornerstone of the Aga Khan Development Network’s endeavour here in Tajikistan and elsewhere. The provision of financial services is a powerful vehicle to combat exclusion and contribute to broad social and economic development.

The Aga Khan reiterated that the First MicroFinanceBank, whilst representing a further evolution of the long presence of the AKDN’s presence in Tajikistan, would be distinctive in a number of ways.

First and foremost, it is an institution — not a project, not a programme, but a permanent establishment of one of the most important sectors in any nation’s economy — the banking sector.

The Aga Khan further elaborated that the First MicroFinanceBank would not only draw on successful credit activities of the AKDN’s rural and small enterprise projects, but it will actually absorb those activities in order to strengthen, expand and build upon them. In addition, the First MicroFinanceBank has a nationwide mandate and will seek rapidly to be active in all parts of the country.

In the coming years, a national network of branches will be opened in all the main cities of the country, with sub branches and agencies serving peri-urban and rural areas, and mobile banking services in remote areas.

These services will eventually include deposit services, payment services and also micro-insurance, low-income housing finance and micro-leasing. These new services and products will be offered on the same basis as the bank’s credit programme — at rates that are non-commercial, yet support the institution’s self-sustainability into the future.

The opening of the First MicroFinanceBank in Tajikistan, brings to three the number of AKDN micro-finance banks in the region — the other two being in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The strong presence along with possible development in other countries will allow for an efficient allocation of resources and the leveraging of experience and best practices.

This strong presence, will entitle AKDN hopefully to make a significant contribution to improving the quality of life through new access to credit of the poorest segments of the population throughout the region. A key element in this process is bringing a larger and larger percentage of the population into an active, creative and positive role within the economy as both producers and consumers.

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