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Certified Expert in Microfinance

The microfinance sector is dynamic and rapidly changing. To be able to cope with the challenges of growth, complexity and competition, microfinance practitioners must be equipped with up-to-date knowledge and tools to strengthen their MFIs.

The Certified Expert in Microfinance course is an excellent and comprehensive qualification for microfinance practitioners. It prepares you for the challenge of serving your clients in changing and increasingly competitive environments.

This course is also available in French and in Spanish

What Do We Offer?

  • An interactive e-learning course including video lectures, PDF scripts, examples, practical exercises, online tests and case studies.
  • A discussion forum for course related issues as well as for exchange of opinions and experiences with tutors, peers or the FSDF e-Campus team.
  • Personalized support from your e-Campus team.
  • The possibility to achieve a Frankfurt School certificate after passing the final exam or a confirmation of course completion after completing the course.

Tuition Fees*

Regular Tuition Fee:  EUR 900

Early Bird Fee: EUR 700 (by July 15)

  • 10% group discount (for 2 or more participants working for the same institution, informed to us beforehand via email)
  • 10% for FS Alumni
  • for company package discounts, please contact us
Payment Options
  • Bank Transfer (bank fees to be covered by participants)
  • Credit Card
  • PayPal

Payment in instalments is not possible.

*Subject to change

Target Audience

The CEMF online course primarily addresses microfinance practitioners, such as mid-level managers and field staff of microfinance institutions and other financial institutions engaged with microfinance in developing countries, emerging economies and developed nations. The course will also be useful for those who are interested to become microfinance experts, consultants and advisors. Last but not least, persons who are engaged in financial policymaking, or regulation and supervision of the microfinance sector will benefit too.


The course takes approx. 6 months assuming 3-4 hours of self-study per week. It consists of 7 mandatory units and one elective, which build upon each other. The units need to be completed in sequential order.

Unit 2 and Unit 6 include an assignment which you will need to submit at a fixed deadline.

You are not sure if you manage to complete the course within 6 months? No worries! You can apply for a course extension (6 more months) against an administrative fee.


Course Start Course End Registration Early Bird
Sept. 1 Feb. 29 Jun. 1 - Sept. 1 by Jul. 15
Mar. 1 Aug. 31 Dec. 1 - Mar. 1 by Jan. 15


Registration for the September intake is now open. Register by July 15 to take advantage of our early bird discount

Course Details*

The CEMF course provides a detailed introduction into the topic of microfinance. It not only presents international trends and best practices with respect to microcredits, microsavings and microinsurance, but also dwells into the challenges and complexity of managing a microfinance institution. Most MFIs operate in an increasingly competitive environment that is quickly changing (e.g. through mobile banking), where both social and financial performance need to be closely monitored to correctly influence management decisions. Participants will thus learn how to cope with the specific challenges that microfinance institutions face today.

*subject to change

Unit 0

Introduction to the Certified Expert in Microfinance

Unit 0 focuses on two topics. First, it gives a brief introduction to the world of microfinance by providing a general view of the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 of Sustainable Development Goals. From a practical perspective and based on empirical evidence, this chapter will show how financial inclusion has been recognized as an enabler to reduce poverty and improve economic and social development.

Based on that information a bridge is built to the microfinance sector, its fundamentals, financial inclusion and how this can help reduce poverty by offering greater access to financial services. Second, this unit provides the basics about poverty, the world's bottom billion, poverty trends and how poverty is measured. This will be a great foundation to analyze the survival problems of the world’s poorest, how they generate income and the importance of the informal sector in daily life. 

Unit 1

From Microfinance to Financial Inclusion

Based on the knowledge gained in Unit 1, this unit derives more details about the microfinance sector, its history, its structures, and its players. Microfinance has evolved rapidly in the last decades; however, its way of providing access to finance to people excluded from the traditional financial sector is not entirely new. An introduction to the history of microfinance and its way to financial inclusion are explained. This part is complemented by introducing the trendy sub-topics of digital finance, agrifinance, green finance, refugee microfinance, women’s financial inclusion, MSME finance, and non-financial services. 

It also provides facts about the first microfinance institutions, their origins, their development, and the rise of new funding instruments. You will learn about the microfinance industry's main actors, whether formal or informal, how diverse they are, and the advantages and disadvantages of different microfinance approaches.  

We will explain the role of debt and capital raising in achieving greater levels of financial inclusion. You will get to know that the commercialization of microfinance drives new challenges for MFIs not only related to the trade-offs between social and financial performance but also to their model of doing business.  

Additionally, regional differences of the microfinance market and microfinance institutions will be discussed as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resilience of microfinance. Eventually, the unit is concluded by having an outlook on the development of the microfinance sector, its players, and their role in poverty reduction. 

Unit 2

Financial and non-financial services demanded by the poor

Unit 2 presents an overview of the services that help foster financial inclusion in different ways. It starts with two highly successful products, micro loans and micro savings. Both products were initially regarded with skepticism as many finance professionals did not believe that poor people could repay loans or had any money to save. Real life experience has shown that both credit and savings have enjoyed a great uptake and continue on a growth trajectory. 

You will find out all about the diversity of credit products that are available today and why it is important to continue to innovate. Regarding savings, you will learn what kind of products have been popular with people who are happy to transition from informal savings methods (like small livestock or jewelry) to a more formal setting if the products are designed in a way that meets their needs. The unit discusses everything related to savings both from the clients’ and the MFIs’ perspectives. You will also learn about the prerequisites MFIs need to fulfil to become a deposit-taking institution and which factors should be taken into account when making the decision to offer savings, especially regarding the inherent risks and the ways they can be managed. 

The unit will also acquaint you with micro insurance and the different products offered to the same target segment MFIs cater to. The range of these products is broad and Unit 3 will familiarize you with the most important ones. 

Finally, the unit will also look into other services that are useful for microfinance borrowers, like payments they need to make to suppliers, remittances and money transfers (domestically and internationally) as well as digital financial services that have changed the potential for financial inclusion dramatically over the last years. In addition to all these different financial services, you will also learn about non-financial services MFIs can offer to help their borrowers thrive and prosper. 

Unit 3

Microcredit lending methodologies

Microfinance has become an important tool for poverty alleviation and economic development in many countries. Microfinance institutions provide small loans, savings, insurance and other financial services to low-income individuals who are often excluded from traditional banking system. Unit 4 will provide you with a detailed introduction to the two methodologies commonly used to deliver micro loans, group lending and individual lending. While both aim to provide access to credit to those who need it most, there are significant differences between them. 

Generally speaking, a group of borrowers is jointly responsible for repaying a loan in group lending. Group members are required to meet regularly to ensure everybody pays on time. If one member defaults, the others are liable for the loan. Individual lending, on the other hand, comes with more flexibility in terms of loan size and tenor depending on the availability of collateral. In this context, unconventional forms of collateral play an outsized role since they help borrowers without traditional assets to access financing anyway and grow their business. 

This unit will examine the characteristics of both lending approaches and point out the differences between them, e.g. the concept of joint liability vs. individual liability and the role of social cohesion and mutual support as opposed to individual accountability. We will then move on to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each methodology regarding availability of collateral, the possibility to build an individual credit history, cost of monitoring and risk of default. 

After completing this unit you will have an understanding of the key feature of each methodology and you will be enabled to decide whether offering group or individual loans is more suitable to the characteristics of the communities your institution works in. 

Unit 4

Managing Microcredit

In this unit, you will learn everything about managing microlending operations. It focuses on the entire loan cycle from start to finish: promoting the products and creating a meaningful credit application that provides the loan officer with all the information needed for the initial client screening process. It will further shed light on the in-depth client assessment from visiting the business site and interviewing the client to a character assessment, a business analysis and financial analysis and, finally, determining the right amount and repayment schedule for a loan by calculating cash flows. The role of the credit committee in the final step of the loan approval will also be explored. When going through each of these steps in great details, we will discuss all of the tasks and duties of a loan officer to ensure high-quality credit decisions. We will explain how to perform a reliable in-depth analysis of a micro business.  

There are also different ways of disbursing a loan which we will look at, and, naturally, the process does not stop here. After disbursement, regular monitoring is required to ensure that the business is functioning like it is supposed to and that the loan has been invested in the way stated on the initial application. Loan monitoring will be explained in great depth and breadth with a set of practical tips to support loan officers in their daily work, because it is much easier to prevent loan delinquency than to resolve it! 

We will then turn to the question of how to deal with delinquent loans. What are the special skills a loan officer needs to enable strong delinquency management? Recommendations and practical solutions for handling difficult clients top off this chapter. 

Finally, the unit will also go into agricultural loans, because they have certain specifics that require an adjusted lending methodology.  The unit provides guidance on product and delivery mechanisms that have been successful in the practical application. 

Unit 5

Financial, Social and Environmental Management for MFIs

Unit 5 examines the major aspects of MFI performance: the financial return, the social return and the environmental return. It is important to understand how to measure these three different types of performance and how to use this information for sound management decisions since most microfinance institutions are already shifting their focus from the double to the triple bottom line. A multitude of practical examples and exercises put the necessary flesh on these dry bones. 

After an overview of what performance and sustainability mean in microfinance you will learn how the third bottom line, environmental performance, factors into the system more and more. The unit will also provide you with a detailed understanding of how to measure financial performance based on income statements, balance sheets and loan portfolio reports. Various financial ratios and explanations of how to interpret them will be presented to you and you will get an introduction to the CAMELS rating system for Microfinance Institutions.  

Additionally, the unit covers profitability management with different product costing and product pricing methods, because they are closely connected to social performance. After all, product affordability plays a great role in achieving financial inclusion. Finally, Unit 6 covers the latest aspects of social and environment performance management. Various performance indicators, as well as issues related to responsible finance, social/environmental audits, social/environmental ratings and social/environmental performance reporting, are presented. The last chapter deals with debt and equity funding, which is necessary for growth - a prerequisite for increasing financial, social and environmental performance. A number of funding instruments and the required due diligence processes are presented. 

Unit 6

Risk Management

Risk Management is one of the fundamental responsibilities of all financial institutions and Microfinance Institutions are no exception. The Board of an MFI must determine the risk appetite and tolerance of the organization and communicate this clearly to stake holders at all levels. The unit on Risk Management will provide you with the knowledge and the tools you need to implement your institution’s risk policy. You will learn about the essential risks to MFIs: financial risk with its subcategories liquidity risk, credit risk, market risk (comprising interest rate risk and foreign exchange risk), and capital adequacy risk; and operational risk including people risk (human error, moral hazard, fraud), organisational risk, systems risk (failing systems), external events risk, and legal and compliance risk. 

In addition to teaching you all about the risks associated with the operations of an MFI, the unit will also equip you with the most proven tools and resources to mitigate and control these risks. After completing it you will be able to differentiate between risk types; calculate and interpret relevant indicators to measure and monitor your institution’s risk exposure; and you will be familiar with the key instruments used to keep the specific risks under control so your MFI can thrive in the long term. 

Unit 7

Management of MFIs: beyond finance and impact

This unit will introduce the importance of managing a microfinance institution beyond its financial and social performance. Most MFIs started being managed with a social goal, but as MFIs grow, scale up and transform, good governance practices become fundamental for institutional success. Hence, understanding how an MFI is directed and managed is one of the key topics of this unit.  

Additionally, the staff is considered the biggest asset of an MFI. An MFI that is able to have motivated, well-trained, well-informed staff has a big advantage in a competitive environment. At the same time, microfinance is a sector where change happens often and continuously. Thus, it is relevant to take a more careful look at bonus systems as a way to create motivation and thereafter move into HR Management and the strategic parts of HR. HR is also about how to ensure that the right people are in the right place, and a successful training programme constitutes one of the major strengths of an MFI. 

A successful MFI manages to target the right clients and offers them the right products. This unit provides insights into marketing and market research as well as how to identify your market potential and market needs in a structured way, as well as the strengths of your MFI in comparison to your competitors. The unit further looks at marketing activities with a specific focus on microfinance marketing measures. 

Microfinance is, at its core, about providing financial services to the poor. A significant part of this unit is therefore Customer Relationship Management, focusing on how to ensure that your MFI is service-minded and successful in providing services to your clients in a client-friendly manner. 

Unit 8

Elective Units

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

Mobile Money and Digital Financial Services

Training Approach

The flexibility of our courses offers you the opportunity to follow your own schedule and to combine daily work with professional development.

The high quality offered will immediately improve your daily job performance as well as the performance of your institution.

Training Material

Video Lectures

  • Introvideos: After viewing the lectures, participants will have a basic understanding of each topic and will be able to classify importance and relevance of different techniques and aspects in a broader context.
  • Web-based Presentations: Web based presentation complement the scripts and give additional input on important topics.

Online Tests

Each unit ends with an online test comprising a set of 10 - 15 multiple choice questions. Only after having successfully completed an online test you will gain access to the next unit.

Reading Material

A PDF script is for most of our courses the main studying material. This reading material provides basic concepts and principles applicable to the subject of each unit.


The key to successful learning is the immediate use of newly acquired knowledge and the transfer of theory into practice. Our online courses are therefore supplemented by mandatory assignments.

Discussion Forum

A course discussion forum enables the interaction between participants and trainers and facilitates the exchange of experiences as well as possibilities to ask questions or get clarifications.

Suggestions & Recommendations

While you decide on the timing and pace of your learning experience we would like to give you some recommendations on how to get the most out of this course:

Your schedule: We will provide you a course schedule including voluntary and mandatory deadlines. The course schedule serves as guideline for your personal learning schedule and will help you completing the programme within the given time frame.

Exercises: Even though the exercises in the script are not mandatory we strongly advise you to use them as an opportunity to check your knowledge and to prepare for the final exam.

Assignments: With the assignments you will learn how to apply the knowledge learned during the course. It is important that you take time to read the necessary material and to solve the assignment.

Networking Opportunities: Use the forum to introduce yourself your peers and start interesting discussions.

Final Exam

Passing a final examination is a requirement for obtaining your certificate.

  • Location: The final exam takes place online
  • Duration: The final exam takes 2 hours.
  • Costs:  An additional final exam fee will be charged for the second and third final exam attempt
  • Certificate: Your digital certificate will be available upon passing the final examination.

If you do not wish to take the final exam, you will receive a confirmation of course participation after completing the course.

Course Lecturer: Lorena Lopez

Lorena Lopez

Lorena has been the Investment Manager at Frankfurt School Impact Finance since 2012. She has worked internationally as an external consultant and analyst for microfinance rating agencies and investment vehicles. She also served as a lecturer and course developer for courses in the Bachelor of Business Administration programme at Ecuadorian universities. She is an expert in Finance, Human Resources, Projects, and Accounting. 


Lorena is a Dr. rer.pol in Economics Policy from Frankfurt School of Finance and Management and a graduate with a Master's in Microfinance from the University of Bergamo (Italia). She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a specialty in Finance from the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador and a Certified Public Accountant and other Postgraduate programs in Constructivism and Education from FLACSO (Argentina) and Human Resources Management from the University of Loja (Ecuador). She has several publications in recognized academic journals such as Applied Economics and Financial Stability.

Course contributes to UN SDGs

This course will enhance your knowledge in the following SDGs. The SWA offers professional and executive courses dedicated to the advancement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


All our courses contribute to the following SDGs


Beyond your Certificate

Master of Leadership in Sustainable Finance

The Certified Expert in Microfinance is an Elective Module of the  Master of Leadership in Sustainable Finance. Join our Master programme after completing the CEMF course and waive one elective module. Also, the amount you paid for the course will be deducted from the final tuition fee of the Master programme.

Frankfurt School Summer Academy

Our Summer Academy is designed to provide tangible take-home value: what you learn with us in Frankfurt, you can apply straight away in your own organisation. More than 1,000 participants over 20 years can’t be wrong – our trainings are cutting edge, delivered by leading experts in their field.  Yet, most important for the great success of our Summer Academies is the profile of the participants. You bring the regional expertisediversity of backgrounds and the unique practitioner’s perspective. Learning from each other is an integral part of our training philosophy. This is your opportunity to stretch your network all around the globe.

Diploma in Financial Inclusion

The Certified Expert in Microfinance is part of the curriculum of our Diploma in Financial Inclusion. Enroll to our Diploma  after completing the CEMF course and waive one module. Also, the amount you paid for the course will be deducted from the final tuition fee of the Diploma.

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