The project was sponsored by the Central Bank in line one of the major recommendations of the Central Bank (CBS) Strategy for the Development and Expansion of the Microfinance Sector in Sudan. Such a recommendation clearly stated the need to undertake an evaluation of Microfinance-Specialized Banks, the SSDB being one of them, with the intention of considering their restructuring in order to empower and enable them to provide sustainable and diverse microfinance services that meet the needs of their target groups. This coincided with the direction of the new Executive Management, appointed in 2008.

In light of the above, the Microfinance Unit of CBS (MFU) and the Savings and Social Development Bank (SSDB), have chosen UNICONS Consultancy Ltd. to undertake the tasks in stages: Stage I: 1- Conduct a comprehensive Situation Analysis and Evaluation of SSDB’s work and environment 2- Based on the Evaluation, identify the most appropriate restructuring alternatives for decision makers; Stakeholders, Upper management and CBS) Stage II: 3-Conduct a Business Plan (based on SSDB’s preference for restructuring options) 4- Design financial and operational plans for SSDB restructuring period.

The SSDB evaluation report is a consolidation of five evaluation reports assessing the bank’s performance in the following areas: (1) The Sudanese Savings Bank (SSB) 1974-1995; (2) The External Factors Affecting the Performance of the Bank; (3) The Institutional Assessment of the Bank; (4) The Financial Assessment; (5) The Assessment of the Bank’s MF Activities.

In order to conduct the evaluation, UNICONS assembled a team of national and international experts for undertaking process, and contracted them based on detailed terms of reference. The international consultants technically assisted UNICONS to implement the evaluation for restructuring of the SSDB as per the submitted and agreed proposal that prepared by UNICONS. While the national consultants were doing the groundwork, the international consultant guided their work so as to insure an efficient and a targeted approach for restructuring.

UNICONS project team involved in a series of activities. These being: Desk Reviews of Documents & Extensive Interviews with Staff and Management at different levels; Questionnaires, Field Visits in Khartoum and States.

UNICONS is proud to have won the bid for this project after having competed with international firms in the bidding process conducted by the sponsor, the Sudan Microfinance Development Facility. The project aims to establish a MSC with the objective of increasing outreach of banks and financial institutions to poor clients and enhance access to finance by low income populations. The secondary objective will be to fully utilize the 12% of portfolio lending which banks are recommended by the Central Bank to dedicate to the microfinance sector.

The project cycle is divided into 2 phases. Phase 1 entails first the conduct of a market and feasibility study requiring a survey of demand and supply for microfinance services in three selected localities within the Northern state. Quantitative and qualitative methodologies were adopted to obtain robust results covering the various relevant market research aspects. The market study will feed into a five year business and action plan complete with operational manuals and financial projections for the years under consideration. Capital requirements for establishing the company will be forecasted together with assumptions clarified for sustainability. Phase 2 will see the actual implementation of the business plan in the first year of operation where Unicons will oversee the establishment of the MSC as stipulated by the action plan it had formulated in Phase 1. UNICONS will undertake all aspects of the provision of technical assistance for operating the newly formed company – from registration to recruiting staff to training senior management and junior employees to advice on purchase of appropriate management information system.

In planning for the project, UNICONS formed a strong team of national and regional experts in the field of microfinance and related services. The team also benefited from UNICONS partnership with Environment Development Group, a consultancy firm with experience in the establishment of MSC in Egypt. Unicons consultants conducted the preliminary institutional assessment and the market and feasibility study. The business plan will be formulated by EDG consultants with input from national consultants. Phase 2 as described above will be implemented by Unicons consultants with some technical assistance from EDG consultants. The training has been planned so as to bring in regional expertise integrated with the local knowhow so as to ensure adaptation of training materials to local conditions. The complete project is being managed by UNICONS staff with the manager at the helm assisted by the projects officer and office secretariat and accountant.

UNICONS Managing Director directed the project and gave it continuous technical and administrative support. Staff organized a roundtable discussions on the evaluation and restructuring options on 5th January 2010, and workshop on International success and failures in Microfinance: Lessons to be learnt for Sudan on 6th January 2010. Description of actual services provided by your staff within the assignment: In preparation for the project, Unicons formed a strong team of national consultants in the field of microfinance, Marketing research and related fields. Unicons staff managed the project in terms of contracting the consultants and arranging meetings with data collectors and top-level managers at SSDB.

Preceding the market survey, national consultants recruited 2 focus groups of micro and small entrepreneurs, translated and modified the questionnaire and - recruited, co-trained and supervised the team of numerators in the usage of a standardized questionnaire and evaluated the pilot test results.

Unicons partnership with LFS , a highly experienced German consultancy firm added positively to the quality of work..National consultants supervised the market research team and worked side by side with LFS consultants in qualitative interviews, processing raw data and evaluation in order to provide key conclusions for the financial projections The establishment of a detailed 5-year business and implementation plan for the restructuring of SSDB entailed an assessment of the overall institutional setup and governance of SSDB. The institutional capacity assessment established a comparison of the currently applied approaches with industry best practice standards for micro and SME finance operations, and also served as a basis for the action plan to be developed for a possible implementation phase. Furthermore, the formulation of the business and implementation plan will include a detailed description of the governance structure to be established, the institutional capacities to be created as well as the resources to be allocated. It will also spell out the advisory services needs in support of the implementation plan.