Opportunity International has announced a $16 million investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates and MasterCard foundations to provide access to savings accounts and agricultural loans in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa.
The organization will use the grant to provide access to savings accounts to some 1.4 million people — including 950,000 in rural areas — as well as comprehensive financial services to more than 90,000 smallholder farmers living in poverty. To reach both agricultural and non-agricultural borrowers and savers, the organization will provide a range of cost-effective delivery channels, including satellite branches, kiosks, mobile vans, ATMs, and point-of-sale devices. Beginning in Malawi and Ghana, the program will be expanded to two to three additional countries over the next five years.
In sub-Saharan Africa's rural areas, where fewer than 10 percent of people have access to comprehensive financial services, farmers have an even harder time accessing financial services designed to meet their needs. Instead of simply providing agricultural credit, Opportunity will create a model designed to increase farmers' chances for success while mitigating risk. As a key component of that strategy, the organization will develop partnerships with extension service providers to equip farmers with training and market linkages that help them boost crop productivity and household income.
"Opportunity International is grateful to the MasterCard Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their support, which will help developing agriculturally based communities transition to thriving and diversified economies," said Opportunity International CEO Kadita "A.T." Tshibaka. "We hope this tremendous partnership will encourage other individuals, foundations, and corporations to join this effort. Opportunity is committed to raising an additional $15 [million] to $20 million over the next three years to increase food security, alleviate poverty, and enable long-term self-sufficiency for the people of Africa."