Kigali, Rwanda – October 4, 2007 – With 100 well-wishers looking on, Clementine Uzabakiriho and her husband Andre were bestowed with a ceremonial “key to the bank” of Urwego Opportunity Bank (UOB) as the one millionth active client of Opportunity International, one of the world’s largest microfinance organizations. Opportunity President and CEO Christopher A. Crane traveled to Rwanda to honor the couple during the opening celebration of the organization’s 17th microfinance bank in the developing world.
Crane told the crowd of employees and friends that the oversized brass key was a symbol that Urwego Opportunity’s doors would always be open to the working poor and that its customers hold the key to the bank’s success. The bank is the result of a merger between World Relief, Hope International and Opportunity International. At the ceremony, acting CEO Todd Brogdon said the bank’s goal is to offer savings and expanded financial services to its 28,000 current clients and the people of Rwanda.
The morning’s festivities began with a gospel choir, devotions and refreshments in celebration of the bank’s second week of operation. Clementine and Andre opened their first savings account at the bank following the ceremony.
“We started with one bag of sorghum,” Andre told the audience about their tiny business which netted $10 per week when they took out their first microfinance loan of $36. “I never thought our business would be so big, but now I’m selling over 1,000 sacks per week.” With the increased profits, the couple has built a new house and bought furniture, purchased livestock and enrolled their children in school.
“We chose to honor Clementine and Andre as our one millionth active loan client worldwide,” said Crane, “because they are a stellar example of the tens of thousands of clients who have started small and quickly grown larger, successful businesses. They employ 41 people, all of whom benefit from the business this hard-working couple has built in only a few years time. We celebrate the ‘ripple effect’ that our entrepreneurs can have in helping to alleviate poverty in some of the poorest countries in the world.”
Clementine and Andre also demonstrate another trait common to Opportunity International’s successful entrepreneurs – they give back to their community. Recently, they purchased bricks for the foundation and cement for the floor of a new church going up in their village of Rubindi.
“Opportunity International came to Rwanda because there is great hope in this country today – hope for a growing economy and an end to poverty,” Crane said. “With the increased income from their small businesses, our clients can provide for their families by putting better meals on the tables, buying books and uniforms to send their children to school, and even adopting orphans in their villages. Clementine and Andre represent the hopes of our one million clients for successful businesses and healthy, prosperous lives for themselves and their families.”
While Opportunity International currently provides microfinance loans to one million clients in 28 countries, the organization has made more than six million loans during its 36-year history. Opportunity also has expanded into banks that provide savings accounts for over 200,000 of the working poor, 750,000 insurance policies covering 3.3 million lives in 10 countries, and its latest innovation, Microschools of Opportunity™ that provides loans to teachers who open schools for poor children who have no other means of getting an education.
“While we are proud of this milestone, this is just the beginning. We are committed to mobilize $1 billion over the next six years to help 100 million people work their way out of poverty by 2015,” Crane said.
About Opportunity International
Opportunity International provides access to savings, small business loans, insurance and training to over five million people working their way out of poverty in the developing world. Clients in over 20 countries use these financial services to start or expand a business, provide for their families, create jobs for their neighbors and build a safety net for the future. For more information, visit http://www.opportunity.org or join the conversation at http://facebook.com/opportunityintl and http://twitter.com/opportunityintl.
About Urwego Opportunity Bank
The Urwego Opportunity Bank of Rwanda is a historic partnership of World Relief, which has operated Urwego Community Banking, the first and largest microfinance institution in Rwanda, since 1997; World Relief Canada and HOPE International, financial partners in Urwego for several years; and Opportunity International, which brings financial and technology expertise to the operation. The new banking hall using state-of-the-art technology is in the capital of Kigali. The combined operation has offices in 27 of the 30 districts in Rwanda, more than 28,000 loan clients and over 3,000 savings clients. UOB has $4.5 million in equity capital and a loan portfolio of $1.7 million.