UN Capital Development Fund Awards $2.5 Million to Expand Community Banks Network Into DRC

The United Nations Capital Development Fund has announced a $2.5 million grant in support of Opportunity International's expansion of its community banking network into the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The grant from UNCDF's MicroLead Fund, which was launched in 2008 with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will enable Opportunity International to provide access to safe savings accounts, business loans and training, and other services in the DRC, where currently only 1 percent of an estimated population of 68 million can access basic financial services.

Within the first three years, the Illinois-based Christian microfinance organization expects to mobilize $4.7 million from some 24,000 depositors, disburse more than 47,000 small business loans, and open four full-service Opportunity DRC branches.

"Despite the extreme poverty, there is a tremendous need for financial services within the DRC," said Gilbert Lagaillarde, CEO of Opportunity DRC. "We will be leveraging the same technologies that we've used elsewhere in Africa. These include biometric-based savings accounts that allow clients to access their account using only a fingerprint, mobile banks, point-of-sale technology, and marketplace kiosks that bring safe, secure access to financial services."