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What drives microfinance institution lending behavior? Empirical evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa

Tilahun Aemiro Tehulu (Accounting and Finance, Bahir Dar University, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia)

International Journal of Emerging Markets

ISSN: 1746-8809

Article publication date: 5 July 2021




While poverty alleviation is the first core goal of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and microfinance institutions (MFIs) are considered important instruments for poverty alleviation in developing countries as they provide credit access to the poor, there is surprisingly little evidence of the drivers of the lending behavior of microfinance institutions. Hence, the purpose of this study is to identify the factors that influence the credit growth of MFIs in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).


The study relies on unbalanced panel dataset of 130 MFIs operating across 31 countries in SSA during the period 2004–2014 constituting 546 useable observations. The study uses the Arellano-Bover/Blundell-Bond two-step generalized method of moments (GMM) Windmeijer bias-corrected standard errors to estimate the models.


The results confirm that while capitalization, liquidity and size are positively associated with credit growth, profitability negatively impacts credit growth; whereas, other MFI specific factors namely portfolio quality, deposit growth and nondeposit borrowing growth have little direct effects on MFI credit growth. The results also show that MFI credit growth is pro-cyclical but negatively related to GDP per capita consistent with the theory of convergence. On the other hand, inflation and employment are not important covariates in the credit growth of MFIs.

Practical implications

The findings suggest that if MFIs improve their liquidity and size by attracting more deposits and nondeposit borrowings, among others, they can increase credit access to the poor. Moreover, since the lending behavior of MFIs is not resilient to GDP shocks, different measures are needed to increase the financial stability of the microfinance industry. In this respect, since MFI capitalization is positively associated with credit growth and MFI credit growth is pro-cyclical, the findings provide useful insights to central banks/regulatory authorities and the Basel Committee as to the need for a counter-cyclical capital buffer requirement in the microfinance industry.


The study is the first comprehensive study to examine the drivers of MFI lending behavior as an extension to lending behavior models from the banking industry.



Tehulu, T.A. (2021), "What drives microfinance institution lending behavior? Empirical evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa", International Journal of Emerging Markets, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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