KHUJAND, March 30, 2011, Asia-Plus -- On Tuesday March 29, Prince Rahim Aga Khan, eldest son of His Highness the Aga Khan, founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), met with clients of The First MicroFinanceBank in Tajikistan (FMFB-T)’s branch in Khujand, the capital of Sughd province.

The source at FMFB-T’s branch in Khujand says that during the meeting, Prince Rahim Aga Khan asked the customers how they are running their businesses, why they have chosen FMFB-T for getting loans and whether they are satisfied with the bank’s activity.

Besides, a number of financial services were presented during the meeting, “the terms of these financial services are not yet disclosed.”

According to the source, the FMFB-T’s branch in Khujand has seven transaction centers in the province – in Panjakent, Istaravshan, Isfara, Konibodom and in Jabborrasulov and Mastchoh districts.

“The FMFB-T’s branch in Khujand now has more than 3,000 customers and its loan portfolio amounts to 30 million somoni,” the source said, noting that dollar loans are provided at 25 percent annual interest and loans in the somoni are provided at 30 percent annual interest.  In 2010, the FMFB-T’s branch in Khujand provided 38.8 million somoni in loans.

Established in 2003, FMFB-T was the first commercial bank in Tajikistan with the principal focus on the provision of microcredit lending.  The Bank has a national mandate to provide a comprehensive range of financial services to the poor throughout the country. In addition to its Head Office in Dushanbe, the Bank currently has branches in Khorog, Gharm, Khujand, Kulob and in Qurghon Teppa.  These branches are supported by a far-reaching network of district offices serving peri-urban and rural areas.

Affiliated with the AKDN, the Bank currently provides a variety of credit and housing products and savings products and facilitates the international transfer of workers’ remittances back into Tajikistan. The Bank is also offering other services, like foreign exchange and payroll services.  In addition, given the nascent state of the banking system in the country, the government has permitted the Bank to provide credit to small and medium businesses, contribute to the development of an efficient payment system, and offer deposit facilities to a broad array of domestic and international depositors.

The Bank’s equity is held by two AKDN agencies - the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AKAM) and the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), as well as the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Germany’s KfW Banking Group. The International reputation and financial strength of these shareholders play an important role in building local confidence in the Bank’s durability and the security of customer deposits.  The Bank also receives vital technical support from KfW and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

We will recall that Prince Rahim Aga Khan arrived in Tajikistan on March 27 for a four-day visit.  The purpose of the visit is for Prince Rahim to review AKDN programs, including microfinance projects.  Prince Rahim serves as a director on the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) and has specific responsibility for microfinance activities of the AKDN globally.