Opportunity International to develop a trans-African network of new commercial banks for the poor
Friday, December 2, 2005
“Opportunity International’s efforts in Malawi and Mozambique will provide thousands of poor Africans with financial tools to rise out of poverty and will demonstrate that rural Africa is a viable market for microfinance.”
Opportunity International, one of the world’s largest microfinance organizations, today announced that it received a $2.2 million grant over three years from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that will go toward a project to develop a trans-African network of new commercial banks for the poor. In addition, the project will reach underserved rural residents, offer credit for working out of poverty, provide savings and insurance for protecting assets, train in business and HIV/AIDS prevention, and encourage women’s empowerment.
“We are enthusiastic to partner with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help achieve the goal of elevating Africa and its poorest rural areas to a global microfinance center,” said Christopher Crane, chief executive officer,Opportunity International. “Opportunity International is committed to offering financial services to impoverished people and to help them move out of poverty. This grant leverages the private dollars that donors have provided to start our microfinance operations.”
In order to increase financial services to the poor, Opportunity International has added two microfinance innovations to its banking model for its new project in Africa. 1) The organization will implement a tailored rural microfinance model with satellite branches, mobile branches, ATMs and points of sale to reach out to the underserved rural population. 2) In addition, Opportunity International will offer a full range of loans, savings and insurance products that meet the specific needs of families living in rural Africa.
“Opportunity International is a global leader in microfinance and we were impressed with its innovations and previous success in Africa,” said Sylvia Mathews, executive director, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “Opportunity International’s efforts in Malawi and Mozambique will provide thousands of poor Africans with financial tools to rise out of poverty and will demonstrate that rural Africa is a viable market for microfinance.”
Opportunity International plans to start new banks in Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria and Ethiopia by 2008, and an additional seven banks in other African countries by 2015. By 2015, these banks will serve 2.8 million poor entrepreneurs, 1.7 million savings customers and 14.1 million insurance recipients.
About the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (http://www.gatesfoundation.org)
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is committed to promoting greater equity in global health, education, public libraries, and support for at-risk families in Washington state and Oregon. The microfinance grants are part of the Strategic Opportunities division of the foundation. The foundation was created in January 2000, through the merger of the Gates Learning Foundation, which worked to expand access to technology through public libraries, and the William H. Gates Foundation, which focused on improving global health. Led by Bill Gates’ father, William H. Gates Sr., and Patty Stonesifer, the Seattle-based foundation has an endowment of approximately $28.8 billion.
About Opportunity International (http://www.opportunity.org )
Opportunity International is a global leader in microfinance. In 2005 Opportunity will make over 1.2 million microfinance loans helping poor people work their way out of poverty in 27 countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Opportunity International’s “Lending Hope to Africa” campaign is making a lasting difference in the lives of families in Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, offering small loans, basic business training and HIV/AIDS education that are proving to be viable, long-term tools for relieving poverty and easing the impact of AIDS on families.