KARACHI: State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Deputy Governor Saeed Ahmed said that the central bank was pursuing a three-pronged strategy (3PS) to achieve the goal of 50 percent financial inclusion by the year 2020. He said 20 million households need microfinance in Pakistan, adding that SBP has achieved access to 4.3 million borrowers so far, but still has a long way to go to reach the target of 50 percent financial-inclusion by 2020. Speaking at 10th Microfinance Country Forum 2016 on ‘Microfinance Recognition Awards’, organised by a private events manger in collaboration with BRAC Pakistan and Khushhali Microfinance Bank in Karachi, Saeed Ahmed said equitable economic growth and financial inclusion is the key to progress. “SBP is creating a favourable regulatory environment for the microfinance sector, while providing cheaper financial resources, building infrastructure to reduce the cost of delivery of funds. It will continue to facilitate the borrowers and ensure their protection,” he added. AKHUWAT Foundation Chairman Dr Muhammad Amjad Saqib stressed the importance of nurturing microfinance as a purely humanitarian intervention, rather than one that focuses on purely commercial objectives. He said merging of the microfinance delivery methods with the ‘interest-free’ financing model has given a tremendous boost to the sector, adding a truly philanthropic and humanitarian perspective to the operations. “This model has been successfully deployed by the Akhuwat Foundation and some other institutions and is showing rapid sustainable growth,” he added. Pakistan Microfinance Investment Company Chairman Zubyr Soomro stressed the need to create a technology platform, which should be accessible for all microfinance institutions to facilitate them in the adoption of latest technologies. The microfinance professionals should work more cohesively with the vocational training institutions, that are preparing skilled entrepreneurs, who need microfinance support, he said, adding that a trained workforce with specialized skills and a humanitarian approach towards business is needed to be nurtured to drive the microfinance sector in future. Pakistan Microfinance Network (PMN) CEO Syed Mohsin Ahmed said, “We would urged the industry to swiftly adopt the technological advancements that are enabling wider, cheaper and instant outreach of financial services, to the deprived and remote segments. Microfinance can also help us overcome the biggest challenges like strengthening of educational infrastructure.” The speakers and microfinance experts said social development and providing the masses with ample opportunities of entrepreneurship to earn respectable income should be the driving force behind all microfinance initiatives in the sector. Reducing financial-exclusion is the most critical need of the country during these challenging times. The microfinance specialists must create a sustainable model by offering competitive microfinance products, reducing costs and expanding their outreach through the use of innovative technology-based financial channels.