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A Learning and Control Perspective for Microfinance

Christian Kurniawan, Xiyu Deng, Adhiraj Chakraborty, Assane Gueye, Niangjun Chen and Yorie Nakahira

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Abstract: Microfinance, despite its significant potential for poverty reduction, is facing sustainability hardships due to high default rates. Although many methods in regular finance can estimate credit scores and default probabilities, these methods are not directly applicable to microfinance due to the following unique characteristics: a) under-explored (developing) areas such as rural Africa do not have sufficient prior loan data for microfinance institutions (MFIs) to establish a credit scoring system; b) microfinance applicants may have difficulty providing sufficient information for MFIs to accurately predict default probabilities; and c) many MFIs use group liability (instead of collateral) to secure repayment. Here, we present a novel control-theoretic model of microfinance that accounts for these characteristics. We construct an algorithm to learn microfinance decision policies that achieve financial inclusion, fairness, social welfare, and sustainability. We characterize the convergence conditions to Pareto-optimum and the convergence speeds. We demonstrate, in numerous real and synthetic datasets, that the proposed method accounts for the complexities induced by group liability to produce robust decisions before sufficient loans are given to establish credit scoring systems and for applicants whose default probability cannot be accurately estimated due to missing information. To the best of our knowledge, this paper is the first to connect microfinance and control theory. We envision that the connection will enable safe learning and control techniques to help modernize microfinance and alleviate poverty.

Date: 2022-07, Revised 2022-12
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-fdg, nep-fle and nep-mfd
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Handle: RePEc:arx:papers:2207.12631