Best Economic Empowerment Program: Citi


Citi: Providing The Tools And Opportunity For Global Economic Development

The Citi Foundation has helped to expand global access to financial products and services through its Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards. The program highlights the successes of entrepreneurs that make a difference in local communities around the world and provides financing and training to help them grow their businesses.


Globally, more than two billion people lack access to formal financial products and services, relying instead on risky and often expensive informal mechanisms. Research shows that access to appropriate products and services is critical for building personal wealth and driving economic growth and development. 

As a financial institution, one of Citi’s key citizenship priorities is promoting financial inclusion. As part of this effort, Citi has been supporting the microfinance sector philanthropically for more than 30 years.  With the goal of helping the microfinance industry achieve scale and sustainability, Citi’s presence and partnerships in the countries where microfinance is making a notable difference is what makes them stand out.

The Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards program (CMA), which is funded by the Citi Foundation, rewards successful microentrepreneurs and provides them with financial resources and support for their enterprises. The program also highlights best practices and product innovation among leading microfinance institutions (MFIs). It also fosters dialogue among policymakers about growth and development, and generates media attention to raise awareness among stakeholders.

What Citi Has Accomplished

In 2002, the Citi Foundation partnered with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)—the Philippine central bank—and the Microfinance Council of the Philippines Inc. (MCPI) to develop the idea for the CMA program. It began as a onetime opportunity to highlight the success of a single microentrepreneur in the Philippines and raise awareness for microfinance. The overwhelming success of the program led to its annual implementation. In 2005, in celebration of the UN-designated “Year of Microcredit,” the Citi Foundation partnered with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to refine the CMA program and bring it to other countries. In 2006, the Citi Foundation took on full responsibility for the program, which has expanded to 35 countries.

In each of the countries where the CMA program is implemented, Citi public affairs officers begin by partnering with a local NGO—typically the leading network of MFIs—to manage the overall effort. Together, they work with key NGOs, policymakers, practitioners, media, and academics, to plan the program, determine award categories and criteria, drive communications efforts, and serve as judges.

Award-winning entrepreneurs and institutions receive cash prizes, access to training, skill-building opportunities, and mentorship from Citi volunteers. Both cash and in-kind prizes help award winners to improve and grow their enterprises, generate new job opportunities, and ensure the sustainability of their organizations.

Both during and after an awards ceremony, our partners work to generate the media attention that ensures the program’s long-term goals are achieved. Coverage by local and national media sources results in increased awareness of the impact of microfinance and microentrepreneurship. This attention inspires dialogue among policymakers and helps to create an enabling growth environment.

Why This Project Makes Sense

Since the launch of the CMA, the Citi Foundation has invested $14.7 million, $7 million of which have been prizes and support services that resulted in more than 5,500 microentrepreneurs growing or improving their enterprises.

To better understand the impact on the ground, we will continue to study the Philippines, where the Citi Foundation has invested more than $800,000 in the CMA since 2002, awarding close to 90 winners. In 2011-2012 alone, the Philippines CMA awarded eight microentrepreneurs with cash prizes, four-week entrepreneurship training, three years of micro-insurance coverage, access to an alumni network of award winners, the expertise and support of 13 Citi volunteers, and 77 media hits.

These short-term outcomes lead to long-term economic empowerment for winners and their communities. While the CMA is not solely responsible for the growth of the global microfinance sector, it has highlighted the microfinance efforts of thousands of institutions that provide services to more than five million active microfinance borrowers. Financial access has grown exponentially since the early 1990s, and Citi has played an important part in making such opportunities more readily available.

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