How has the business developed financially in 2023

Demand has picked up as our clients and staff continued to demonstrate their resilience while operating in economic circumstances that have remained challenging. This activity and resilience led to an improved performance in our major operating countries, Pakistan, the Philippines, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania, almost all of which recorded excellent portfolio quality, growth, and profitability. As previously announced, against the backdrop of global market volatility, the improved performance in our major operating markets was offset by FX movements in these markets which has significantly impacted the Group OLP and profitability in USD terms.

Read the full business review on page 10 and 11 of our Annual Report.

As CEO of ASA International in your first year, what key areas of the business do you feel are important to maintain as the company moves forward?

Our foremost focus is on maintaining our strategic trajectory, with an emphasis on growing our operations to increase financial inclusion and driving forward our digital strategy to contribute to the resilience and sustainability of our business. We recently achieved a significant milestone of migrating over 600 thousand active clients to our core banking system in Pakistan, having secured the microfinance banking licence early last year, marking our shift from microfinance lending to microfinance banking.

This transition is pivotal as it not only enhances operational efficiencies but also broadens our product offering. It sets the stage for the rollout of the core banking system in our other markets and is in line with our strategy to introduce a digital channel, digitise internal processes, and offer digital products and services. While we embrace digital innovation, the ASA model, characterised by our high-touch approach to lending, where we regularly engage with clients face-to-face, remains at the core of our business.

Read more about our digital strategy here

Are there any new developments or practices you’ve introduced this year?

Throughout the past year, we've had numerous performance dialogues with our operational leadership and we've made some organisational changes to bring fresh perspectives to our management approach. We are focused on having the right people and culture in place to support the growth and sustainability of the business.

Read a case study about the cultural and leadership change on page 16 of the Annual Report

What achievements make you proud to be part of ASA International?

Despite the challenges we face, our team is working tirelessly to deliver on our purpose to empower women and reduce poverty. Last year we set targets in areas such as climate action and diversity, equity and inclusion, and we've made great progress over the past year. These important efforts, such as our tree planting projects, which resulted in 30 thousand seedlings being planted by our clients, colleagues, and community members across ten of our operating countries, have been hugely collaborative efforts and truly demonstrate our lived value of teamwork. This is beautifully illustrated in our Annual Report.

Read the tree planting project on here pages 21 and 22 of the Annual Report

What is your business outlook and your strategic priorities for 2024?

The outlook for 2024 remains positive with improved business performance expected for our operations compared to 2023, on the back of better performance in H2 2023. However, inflation and related foreign exchange (‘FX’) movements are expected to continue to impact the Group’s operating subsidiaries’ performances. The reported net income for the Group will also depend on which countries will be classified as hyperinflationary at the end of 2024. Based on current preliminary inflation projections, it is expected that the accounting for hyperinflation will be applicable for Ghana and Sierra Leone in 2024. Pakistan and Nigeria are currently on the watchlist.

Our strategic priorities for 2024 are to deliver healthy operational growth in existing markets and to realise growth in client numbers, outstanding loan portfolio (‘OLP’) and OLP per client. On the digital front, we intend to leverage the benefits and additional products of the new core banking platform in Pakistan and continue the roll-out of the core banking system in Ghana. We will initiate the platform roll-out in Tanzania and Kenya and focus on obtaining microfinance banking licences in these countries.

Read more about our strategy here