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Opportunity LiveBlog: Banking on Africa

By Sonja Egeland Kelly

Over 75 percent of people in Africa lives on less than $2 per day. So when Opportunity looked at its expansion plan, Africa was the region that began to take priority.

In 2008 Opportunity launched an ambitious campaign to make significant impact on the world’s poorest people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2015. Building upon its 38 years of providing financial services to the poor, Opportunity International is developing a network of banks to address the capital infrastructure needs of poor communities in Africa isolated from the financial system.

This weekend, the Banking on Africa Campaign took center stage.

“Our aim is to reach five million clients in sub-Saharan Africa with financial services,” says former CEO and Board Member Kadita A.T. Tshibaka. He defines these services as “services that unlock hidden capital and create a financial infrastructure within poor communities, laying the foundation for vibrant local economies. When their families and employees are taken into account, some 30 million African lives will be impacted through our work.”

The theme of Banking on Africa was repeated throughout the weekend in plenary sessions, in conversations between participants and in various breakout sessions.

In one such breakout session, Opportunity Board chair Peter Thorrington expressed his own excitement for bank building in Africa.

He said, “The part that humbles me most is that if you look at the last two years, the savings of the poor in Malawi have matched the donations of the affluent in the US.” While he acknowledged that they are two different measures, as the savings of the poor can be accessed again, while the donations of the affluent are charitable, in terms of the ability of the bank to lend capital, they are the same thing. The combination of the two amounts allows for a double leverage effect.

When asked about the potential conflict of bank building versus fostering transformation, a smile spread across Peter’s face.

“It is the power of ‘and,’” he said. “We have got to build banks, and we also have to foster economic, social and spiritual transformation. It takes both to be successful.”

Are you interested in learning more about Opportunity’s Banking on Africa Campaign?

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