University of Helsinki: Finnfund and the University of Helsinki to invest together into microfinancing in Africa and Asia

Finnfund, a Finnish development financier and impact investor, announce today a EUR 10 million debt facility commitment to the Advans Group, one of the leading international microfinance group serving over one million clients in nine countries: Cambodia, Cameroon, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Pakistan, Nigeria, Tunisia, and Myanmar. The University of Helsinki participates in this investment with Finnfund.

Through this funding, Finnfund and the University of Helsinki aim to generate funding for micro and small businesses and promote responsible business practices and gender equality within microfinancing.

Established in 2005, the Advans Group together with its subsidiaries has had a pioneering role in launching responsible and client-friendly microfinance services in many of its underserved markets. The loans are mainly targeted at small businesses with growth opportunities helping them create and sustain jobs and improve profitability. In 2020, their average loan size was 2200 euros, and 60% of their borrower clients were women.

The University of Helsinki wants to be in the forefront of sustainable development and responsibility
For Finnfund and University of Helsinki this is the first co-investment participation financing. Finnfund has been financing Advans Group since 2019.

“We are grateful to Finnfund for its renewed commitment to supporting the Advans Group’s development. This new facility will enable our subsidiaries to continue to provide tailored and innovative financial services to small businesses so as to foster growth and economic and social development in our countries of operation, which is especially critical in a post-Covid world where our clients need funds to resume activity”, said Steven Duchatelle, Chief Executive Officer at Advans Group.

“We are very pleased to make this investment into Advans together with University of Helsinki. Advans has been our investee since 2019. There are many interesting impact investment opportunities with an attractive risk and return profile, and we are increasingly looking for new partnerships to both strengthen our role as an investor and to contribute to sustainable development and climate actions,” said Markus Pietikäinen, Chief Investment Officer at Finnfund.

“We are very excited both about the opportunity to finance Advans and the opportunity to work with such an experienced impact investor such as Finnfund. In terms of investment activities, we aim to be at the forefront of sustainable development and responsibility. Through this investment, we can increase the social impact of our investments and we can contribute especially to gender equality, which is one of our core values at the university,” noted Teresa Platan, Deputy Chief Investment Officer at the University of Helsinki.

Strong focus on gender equality and employee development
Although small businesses play a pivotal role in promoting economic development in developing countries, they are often excluded from the financial mainstream. Advans’ aim is to respond to the need for financial services of small businesses and other populations who have ill-adapted, limited or no access to formal financial services through providing tailored financial services in a sustainable and responsible manner.

Advans currently has a staff of around 7,500 employees of which about 40% are female. Advans has become an exceptional employer in its markets since it invests in hiring and training local graduates many of whom perform successful careers with the company.

Advans has also put effort into promoting gender equality within the group. For instance, the company has been increasing the number and the share of women in the leadership teams in all its African subsidiaries, and in 2020 started a gender-focused project including an evaluation of Advans’ Gender Strategy.

For Finnfund, Advans is classified as an eligible 2X Challenge investment. 2X Challenge is an international gender lens investing initiative that aims to collectively mobilize USD 15 billion in commitments that provide women in developing country markets with improved access to leadership opportunities, quality employment, finance, enterprise support, and products and services that enhance economic participation and access. Finnfund joined 2X Challenge in 2019.