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microStart – the Belgian microcredit provider participating in the European Progress Microfinance Facility – opened its second branch in the commune of Schaerbeek, Brussels.
Since the launch of its St Gilles branch, in February, microStart has met with around 200 potential beneficiaries. 30 microloans between € 1 000 and € 10 000 have already been awarded to micro-entrepreneurs, who, because of lack of resources, would have been excluded from the traditional banking system. Most of the beneficiaries have a migrant background.
The European Progress Microfinance Facility (Progress Microfinance) is a new initiative established with € 200 million of funding from the European Commission and the European Investment Fund.
Progress Microfinance aims to increase access to finance for micro-entrepreneurs, including the self-employed. It has a particular focus on (but is not restricted to) groups with limited access to the conventional credit market. Examples include female entrepreneurs, young entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs belonging to a minority group, entrepreneurs with a disability, sole traders, etc.
Loans of up to € 25 000 are made available through eligible intermediaries. Progress Microfinance does not provide direct financing to micro-entrepreneurs or individuals, but works through intermediaries such as microStart, in Belgium.
Five countries benefit so far from microloans offered within the framework of Progress Microfinance: Belgium, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania. Final negotiations are ongoing with Lithuania and Cyprus.