Financial Institutions

By investing in banks, microfinance and other financial institutions, Norfund contributes to increased financial inclusion and to more jobs in small and medium sized companies.

Key achievements in 2020




new clients served


increase in lending to clients

Inclusive financial systems provide businesses and individuals with greater access to resources to meet their financial needs, such as capitalising on business opportunities, investing in homebuilding or education and managing unforeseen circumstances.

In low- and middle-income regions, the financial sector is often underdeveloped. Businesses and individuals have limited access to basic financial services, such as bank accounts, payment services and credit facilities. Across developing countries, it is estimated that 65 million formal Micro-, Small- and Medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) have unmet financing needs, and about 1.7 billion adults remain unbanked.

Banks and microfinance institutions rely on access to debt and equity when extending loans to their clients.

Increasing the availability of capital enables them to develop products, increase their market reach and pay for costly yet crucial capital investments. IT systems, for example, are expensive, but are needed to provide high-quality, effective and secure services.

Effects of Covid-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the business and investment climate for financial institutions in all Norfund’s markets. The ability of bank clients to service their debt has been reduced, and many banks have insufficient financial buffers in place to handle the situation over time. In 2020, many banks restricted their new lending and were forced to provide moratoriums and restructure existing loans. Growth has therefore slowed in most markets, and this has affected the need for funding from Norfund and other DFIs.

Norfund provides debt and equity to financially viable banks and microfinance institutions that want to grow appropriate, valuable services in our core countries.

Our investments are made both directly and through investment platforms and funds and focus on growing locally owned financial institutions.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Norfund’s strategy is to help Africa’s own banking system to become better positioned to provide additional loans to African businesses to see them through the crisis. Our investments in banks target medium-sized and large banks that focus on SMEs and the retail market and have clients who previously lacked access to financial services.

Our main vehicle for equity investments in African banks is Arise, a bank investment company in which Norfund owns more than 40 per cent of the shares. We invest directly in microfinance institutions in our core countries as well as indirectly through the Nordic Microfinance Initiative (NMI).

Strategic ambitions

Norfund has defined two ambitions for its direct investments in financial institutions for the strategy period 2019 – 2022:

  • Offer financial services to 15 million new clients
  • Extend 130 billion NOK more in loans to clients

Accumulated achievements 2019 – 2020

Million new clients

Increased lending (BNOK)

Calbank, Ghana

Investments and Results in 2020

Norfund is invested directly in 56 financial institutions (FI), ranging from regional banking groups and funds that invest in banks to local microfinance institutions.


committed in 2020


committed in total FI portfolio

Impact 2020

40.1 billion NOK increased loans to clients

The combined loan book of the direct investments in our portfolio reached a total of 398 billion NOK by the end of 2020. The total number of loans provided to clients was 6 million: 3 million to retail clients, 1.3 million to microfinance clients and 460,000 to SMEs. Institutions with two consecutive years of reporting had increased their credit provision by NOK 40.1 billion (11 per cent growth) during the year.

In addition, the financial institutions we have invested in through funds, with two consecutive years of reporting, have provided 1 million new clients with access to financial services and in total provided services to around 12.5 million clients.

1.5 million new clients provided with financial services

The direct investments in our portfolio provided services to around 52 million clients in total. Institutions with two consecutive years of reporting increased the total number of clients by 3 per cent - 1.5 million new clients - during 2020.

In addition, the financial institutions we have invested in through funds, with two consecutive years of reporting, have provided 1 million new clients with access to financial services and in total provided services to around 12.5 million clients.

More about impact from Norfund's investments in financial institutions

Investments per region

In 2020, a total of 15 commitments were signed with financial institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The majority of commitments were in Latin America – the region that has been hardest hit by COVID-19.

Investments per region in 2020

Total Portfolio per region

Liquidity crisis as result of COVID-19

Most commitments in 2020 were to existing investees, while four investments were in new investee companies. The relatively low number of new investments is a result of the reduced growth of the financial sector during Covid-19 as well as a more complicated investment process and a larger dependence on external service providers as a result of the pandemic and its associated travel restrictions.  

In 2020, several of the microfinance institutions, with which we are involved, experienced a liquidity crisis due to the pandemic. To help them continue serving their clients during the crisis, Norfund provided additional short- and medium-term loans to those in need of additional liquidity. We have also provided extensions of existing loans as well as covenant waivers for a large number of our investees, primarily small institutions as well as some of the larger banks.

The need for equity investments in financial institutions has been limited in 2020 as most plans for capital expansion have been put on hold. However, we may see a greater need for equity going forward as financial institutions seek to restore their balance sheets following the pandemic.

Highlights from 2020


new investee companies


follow-on investments

Strengthening the Ghanaian financial sector

First National Bank Ghana was one of Norfund’s new investees in 2020. The bank is the result of a merger between a subsidiary of a South African bank and Ghana’s largest mortgage provider. Norfund provided a loan of USD 15 million to support the operations of the newly merged bank as well as funding for small and medium-sized enterprises and home loans to private clients.

Read more about the Ghanaian financial sector on

Microfinance for farmers and entrepreneurs in Nicaragua

Fondo de Desarrollo Local (FDL) is the leading microfinance institution in Nicaragua with a large number of farmers among their clients. Norfund has been investing in FDL since 2013. COVID-19 and the problematic economic and political situation in Nicaragua made 2020 a challenging year for the institution. To help them continue supporting their clients, Norfund provided both additional debt and equity. Norfund is currently an 11 per cent shareholder in this institution.

Read more about FDL at

Strengthening microfinance institutions in Latin America

Locfund Next is an open-ended fund whose aim is to provide small- and medium-sized microfinance institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean with local currency financing. Norfund was instrumental in setting up the fund. With this new fund, the manager seeks to serve microfinance institutions in the region by offering local currency loans, other financial products and technical assistance with a focus on improving the technological capabilities of these institutions.

Read more about Locfund Next at

Strengthening insurance coverage in Sri Lanka

Investing in technology-driven insurance companies in selected developing countries is a new element in Norfund’s strategy 2019-2022. In 2020, Norfund successfully made its first investment in this sector with Tier II capital for Softlogic Life in Sri Lanka. Softlogic Life is pioneering inclusive life and health insurance solutions in Sri Lanka and currently has more than half a million low- and mid-income customers. By offering affordable insurance to emerging customers, the company helps to increase resilience in unexpected situations.

Read more about Softlogic Life at

Softlogic LifeSri Lanka2020Other financial servicesLoansSri Lanka63.9
First National Bank GhanaGhana2020BankingLoansGhana127.9
LOLC (Cambodia) PLC.Cambodia2020MicrofinanceLoansCambodia85.3
LOCFUND NEXT, L.P.America2020MicrofinanceFunds30 %Canada53.7
Equity BankAfrica2019BankingLoansKenya127.9
Banco BCTAmerica2019BankingLoansCosta Rica85.3
Yoma Bank LimitedMyanmar2019BankingEquity11 %Myanmar294.9
Optima Servicios Financieros SA de CVAmerica2019MicrofinanceEquity36 %El Salvador52.7
Mutual Trust Bank LimitedBangladesh2019BankingEquity and Loans10 %Bangladesh324.7
CredicomerEl Salvador2019MicrofinanceLoansEl Salvador59.7
Accion Quona Inclusion Fund LPGlobal2019Investment fundsFunds6 %Cayman Islands82.2
ONE Bank LimitedBangladesh2018BankingLoansBangladesh79.9
NMI GP IV ASGlobal2018MicrofinanceEquity22 %Norway24.0
CAL Bank LimitedGhana2018BankingLoansGhana34.1
AfricInvest Financial Inclusion Vehicle (FIVE)Africa2018BankingEquity22 %Mauritius178.5
Banco Promerica Costa RicaCosta Rica2018BankingLoansCosta Rica213.3
NMI Fund IVGlobal2018MicrofinanceFunds25 %0216.0
AB BankVietnam2017BankingLoansVietnam142.2
Access Bank Plc.Nigeria2017BankingLoansNigeria79.9
City Bank LimitedBangladesh2017BankingLoansBangladesh85.3
Banco BDFNicaragua2017BankingLoansNicaragua74.6
Arise B.V.Africa2016BankingEquity33 %Netherlands2,804.5
FedecreditoEl Salvador2016MicrofinanceLoansEl Salvador170.6
Banco Promerica GuatemalaGuatemala2016BankingLoansGuatemala85.3
Advans MFI Myanmar Company LimitedMyanmar2015MicrofinanceEquity and Loans40 %Myanmar54.8
Banco Promerica El SalvadorEl Salvador2015BankingLoansEl Salvador102.3
Myanmar Finance International LimitedMyanmar2015MicrofinanceEquity and Loans25 %Myanmar20.2
ARREND Central AmericaAmerica2015Other financial servicesEquity and Loans22 %Guatemala89.6
LAFISE NICARAGUANicaragua2014BankingLoansNicaragua187.7
ACLEDA Bank Lao Ltd.Laos2014BankingLoansLaos47.0
Amret Plc.Cambodia2013MicrofinanceLoansCambodia93.8
NMBZ BankZimbabwe2013BankingLoans9 %Zimbabwe11.9
Prasac Microfinance Institution Plc.Cambodia2013MicrofinanceLoansCambodia247.4
FDLNicaragua2013MicrofinanceEquity and Loans13 %Nicaragua114.3
Norfinance ASAfrica2013BankingEquity50 %Norway483.0
First Finance Plc.Cambodia2013MicrofinanceEquity and Loans15 %Cambodia34.0
NMI Fund IIIGlobal2013MicrofinanceFunds26 %0241.1
LOCFUND IIAmerica2013MicrofinanceFunds26 %Canada53.8
Alios Finance Tanzania LtdTanzania2012Other financial servicesLoansTanzania2.8
Ficohsa HondurasHonduras2012BankingLoansHonduras170.6
NorsadAfrica2011Other financial servicesEquity15 %Botswana56.8
DesyfinCosta Rica2011Other financial servicesEquity and Loans23 %Costa Rica106.7
HEFFAmerica2011MicrofinanceFunds33 %Delaware20.4
ProsperoAmerica2011MicrofinanceFunds22 %Cayman Islands42.3
BRAC Bank LimitedBangladesh2010BankingEquityBangladesh11.6
Real PeopleAfrica2009Other financial servicesEquity and Loans12 %South Africa113.5
Nordic Microfinance Initiative ASGlobal2008MicrofinanceEquity33 %Norway31.6
Norwegian Microfinance Initiative ASGlobal2008MicrofinanceEquity50 %Norway30.0
NMI Frontier FundGlobal2008MicrofinanceFunds45 %Norway54.6
NMI Global FundGlobal2008MicrofinanceFunds45 %Norway47.0
AfriCap Microfinance Investment Company Ltd.Africa2007MicrofinanceFunds7 %Mauritius18.1
CIFIAmerica2004Other financial servicesEquity and Loans34 %Panama329.4
LAADAmerica2004Other financial servicesLoansNetherlands Antilles271.6