Dear Friends and Partners of Opportunity International,
When the Global Board was created in 2014, one of our key promises to you was to make wise investment decisions. No sooner did we make that promise than it was tested. Our banks in Africa—originally established to fill a vast gulf in financial inclusion—were reaching a critical mass. We found ourselves at a crossroads asking: If we maintain sole ownership of our banks in Africa, given the associated costs and risks, are we most effectively marching toward our vision of helping people achieve a life free from poverty?
I am humbled by the company I keep on our Global Board. Their vast experience, intelligence and commitment to those living in poverty is second to none. Together we, with Management, analyzed our history and learnings in Africa and across Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe. We evaluated our delivery models around the world, ranging from non-owned partners to minorityand majority-owned institutions. We calibrated for trends in poverty reduction, economic growth, financial inclusion and the financial technology sector. We contemplated models, partnerships and strategies that would catalyze our impact.
Our overwhelming conclusion was that our focus should not be on exclusively operating banks; it should be on providing services that help people transform their lives and move out of poverty— using whatever delivery model is most effective in that region. The reality is that continuing to be majority owners and principal managers of banks in Africa, an increasingly regulated environment with growing capital requirements, would inevitably pull us away from our mission rather than draw us closer.
As pioneering bankers in Africa, we created new markets, new services, new competitors and new products. We provided 39 million clients with access to financial services that they could not otherwise receive. You, our loyal supporters, have been invaluable in shaping the very landscape to which we must now respond. The Board and Management concluded that by standing still, we would lose the chance to vastly increase our client reach while simultaneously putting the organization at financial risk. At the end of 2015, we agreed to transfer majority ownership positions in our African banks to expert institutions that are better equipped to own and manage them, thus shifting our role to become strategic microfinance investors with minority equity positions and board involvement within those institutions.
Opportunity’s Global Board is united, personally committed and even more so— grateful—to be brought together for “such a time as this.” Since joining with our first partner, MyBucks, we are already serving many of our clients faster, at a lower cost and more efficiently. We are buoyed by the early wins that are proving our theory of change can be strengthened as it is refined.
So we pray, we pivot, we proceed. Our work is flourishing in Latin America and Asia, a new frontier is upon us in Africa, and we are looking ahead toward a world in which all people have the opportunity to achieve a life filled with dignity, hope and purpose.
With many blessings,