Lara Storm is the Director of Financial Inclusion at MIX and is responsible for leading MIX’s growing portfolio of financial inclusion projects. Storm’s rich experience in financial inclusion and client-centric microfinance started with her work managing client and market research at ProMujer and prior work accrediting partner MFIs at Catholic Relief Services. Immediately before joining MIX, she led the Youth-Inclusive Financial Services Linkage program at Making Cents, developing and managing training curricula and a platform for best practice exchange to promote appropriate financial services to youth. Storm started her career in Ecuador and then in New York as a credit ratings analyst with Fitch Ratings. She holds a Masters of International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a B.A. in Spanish and Geography from the University of California, Davis.
Heather Kipnis is an experienced international finance and development specialist with nine years of comprehensive experience in private wealth management, microfinance, impact investing, SME banking, and gender finance across Europe, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East. After managing the operations of an international brokerage team at Lehman Brothers, Kipnis worked in Bolivia helping women entrepreneurs prosper through business training and access to finance. As the Program Manager for Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence, she developed and launched a business education distance learning program for women entrepreneurs; which grew from start up to over 5000 participants. She has consulted with the Inter-American Development Bank, Guatemalan Ministry of Economy, Vital Voices, and is currently a SME Banking Consultant with International Finance Corporation. She has an MBA in Global Development and Entrepreneurship from Thunderbird School of Global Management.
Anthony Cotton is the Africa Team Leader for USAID’s Office of Development Credit. In this role, he sets team strategy/targets and works with a team of investment officers to structure partial credit guarantees with banks and microfinance institutions in sub-Saharan Africa. After earning his undergraduate business degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Cotton studied the Zulu language and culture on a Fulbright scholarship in South Africa. He then joined the Peace Corps and served as a small enterprise development volunteer in Ghana, where he developed and managed community-based cultural tourism projects. He subsequently was a Peace Corps Fellow at Fordham University, where he earned master’s degrees in international development and economics. He joined USAID in 2009 as a Presidential Management Fellow.
Anastasia de Santos is an economist with USAID’s Microenterprise and Private Enterprise Promotion Office in Washington, DC. She has worked in USAID's Bureau for Economic Growth, Education & Environment since 2008, and currently manages activities and impact evaluations on women’s SME entrepreneurship. At USAID, she also co-authored growth diagnostics for El Salvador and Laos, and served as a Teaching Assistant for Cost-Benefit Analysis while studying at Colombia. She has a Master's in International Affairs from Columbia University, concentrating in international economic policy, and a Bachelor’s degree from Yale in Sociology.
Emerging research reveals significant barriers to growth among women-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Women business-owners of SMEs often cite lack of appropriate credit as a top challenge. However, relatively little information is available regarding what support can increase female SME business-owners’ access to financing, what unique challenges they face compared to their male counterparts, and what distinguishes them as a market segment for lenders. At the beginning of this year, USAID commissioned several reports to take stock of women-owned SME inclusion and performance as part of its donor transparency efforts, and also to inform future programming decisions.
In this seminar, independent consultants Lara Storm and Heather Kipnis presented their findings from a recent analysis of loan guarantees issued by USAID’s Development Credit Authority (DCA) to female SME business-owners in countries where the DCA operates, and two case studies of guarantees paired with technical assistance in Ghana and Ethiopia. In 1999, USAID created the DCA as a partial credit guarantee mechanism to leverage private capital for development objectives. DCA guarantees provide a partner financial institution with partial guarantee coverage (typically 50 percent) on a loan or portfolio of loans in a given sector (i.e. agriculture, health, energy) that the lender perceives as too “risky.” USAID's Africa Team Leader in the Office of Development Credit Anthony Cotton laid the groundwork for the discussion and gave some background about how DCA guarantees work in the field.