Social Inclusion through Microenterprise Development
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Chapter 3: The Microcredit Sector in Italy: Small Initiatives in a Dynamic Scenario
Simone di Castri* 1 National context Financial inclusion has been the subject of many initiatives in Italy since the fifteenth century, when several projects took place in order to provide poor people with access to financial services. From the end of the nineteenth century, these projects became structured financial institutions, progressively integrated into the formal sector. Most of them have been absorbed into the range of mainstream commercial providers, subjected to strict regulation and supervision and engaged in competition with the rest of the suppliers. They adapted their practices, mission and strategy; they lost outreach and eventually they became incapable of adapting to the emerging needs of the new poor. Basically, they lost their characterization as actors for financial inclusion. The origin of the inclusive financial sector will be examined in the next section. Financial exclusion, meaning the lack of access to basic financial services, such as a bank or postal account, has been addressed in different ways for more than a century, but an inclusive financial sector has never been achieved. During the 1970s, this led to the creation of Mutue di Auto Gestione (self-management mutual associations – MAGs), and more recently to the emergence of microfinance initiatives and the development of services for migrant banking. These new financial services and providers are emerging to serve the needs of the uncollateralized, the unbanked, the marginalized and the poor. If a wide definition of microlending activity is taken into consideration, as the provision of small loans to people who lack conventional...
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