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Abstract:  Distances involved in accessing basic services can constitute a major barrier to development. This paper analyzes the relationship between the distance separating households from microfinance institutions’ offices in Niger, and the low levels of development and performance of the microfinance sector in the country. To cope with the effects of geographical distance, microfinance institutions adapt their policies through more restrictive loan conditions, higher interest rates and more intensive screening. This then leads us to discuss the tension between access and sustainability in the context of financial services for the poor.