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Opportunity CEO Advocates Bottom-up Approach to Economic Development

By Cynthia Greenwood

In a speech on Thursday October 29th to the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations, Opportunity CEO Kadita “A.T.” Tshibaka cited many things he learned while working in emerging markets at Citibank and Lloyds TSB Group for over 35 years.  One is that a bottom-up approach to economic development is generally the most effective.

Kadita said, “We cannot only rely on national initiatives or macro-economic policies to foster the sort of growth and stability that these markets so desperately need. Even when it comes to international aid to these countries, there are a growing number of voices questioning the wisdom of the historical top-down approach that delivers massive amounts of direct aid to governments and to consultants and middlemen, instead of investing in small farmers, businesses and communities.”

That’s why we’re working hard at Opportunity International to expand access to financial services – especially savings – for people who have never had them before. We’re building scalable and sustainable banks throughout the developing world, and we’re using the most up-to-date technology to reach isolated rural communities or underserved peri-urban areas where most of the poor live. Our new agricultural finance initiative is providing smallholder farmers with loans for higher quality, drought-resistant seed and fertilizer, and weather-indexed crop insurance to protect them in the case of drought. Through our “Banking on Education” program, private educators are receiving loans to open or expand schools in their neighborhoods for children living in poverty. We’re also beginning to provide school fee loans and school savings accounts to help families pay for a quality education so their children can learn the skills they need to get higher paying jobs and to help in the economic development of their communities.  

Kadita says that “whether we work for a multinational corporation looking to expand into new markets or for a relief agency responding to a natural disaster, we must approach everyone in the developing world as equal partners. We must recognize the wisdom, ingenuity, dignity and courage in all people, especially in those who are struggling each day to work their way out of poverty.” That’s what we try to do every day at Opportunity International.

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