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LiveBlog: Plenary Session with Roger Thurow, the Gates Foundation’s Tamara Cook, Under Secretary of State María Otero and more

By Opportunity International

This very first plenary session kicks off our fall microfinance conference. It’s led byhttp://www.opportunity.org/blog/westmont-college-optinnow-event/A.T. Tshibaka[/intlink]; author and senior fellow for Global Agriculture and Food Policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs,http://www.opportunity.org/blog/opportunity-liveblog-roger-thurows-global-food-for-thought/Roger Thurow[/intlink], and writer for the blog Outrage & Inspire; program officer for Financial Services for the Poor in the Global Development Program at thehttp://www.opportunity.org/about/strategic-partners/strategic-partner-bill-melinda-gates-foundation/Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation[/intlink], Tamara Cook; senior banking officer for Opportunity Malawi, Chance Tsamwa; and Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, María Otero. 

Just a few of the issues and stories from this exciting session: 

    • A.T. Tshibaka: One very exciting initiatives is thehttp://www.opportunity.org/initiatives/banking-on-africa/Banking on Africa[/intlink]. Speaking about the campaign: ”The goal is to reach five million clients in sub-Saharan Africa by 2015. Considering the impact that will have on their families, we estimate that that initiative affects around 30 million people.”
    • Roger Thurow: “One billion people in the world go to bed hungry every night. That is an outrage to me. But my inspiration is that we have arrived at a great moment of potential opportunity in the fight against hunger. We have plenty of food surpluses in the West, but by helping the hungry to feed themselves and increase their own agricultural production, it not only alleviates hunger but it can encourage economic and social stability overall. Obama pledged in his inaugural address to tackle the problem of global hunger. This means that people have enough food to feed themselves and their communities. Which is important because expectations are that by 2050, the world will need to double food production to support the growing population. The solution? Microinsurance and other microfinance products to help protect farmers from natural disasters and to help farmers make ends meet through the growing season.”

A.T. Tshibaka speaks about his life growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the important work being done by Opportunity.

  • Tamara Cook: “I met clients in Malawi for whom access to savings accounts can be the key to paying for school fee loans for their children. Just because you introduce a new technology channel or tool, these services can still be ‘high touch.’ Loan officers and other staff members give one-on-one training and help when clients need it.” It is an exciting mix of technological innovation, and personal inspiration and contact.
  • Chance Tsamwa: Working in Chinsapo, Malawi, in 2005, she witnessed the work of other microfinance institutions. She says, “Other institutions saw poverty as a lack of basic needs, but at Opportunity we think poverty is lack of knowledge. Our transformational training teaches clients everything they need to know to create a vision for their business, develop a plan, run the business, and manage their money effectively.”
  • María Otero: “I have been an admirer of Opportunity for many years. I was the CEO of Accion, and I understand the impact that organizations like Opportunity can have to help the lives of the poor. Addressing poverty through microfinance is a priority of this administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Today, microfinance has grown from just microloans, from its beginnings in the 1970s, to a wide variety of expansive microfinance services and products to help them work their way out of poverty. In the State Department, we are committed to eradicating poverty through microfinance, and we feel strongly that this can be a sustainable and profitable solution. And both President Obama and Secretary Clinton are committed to this sustainable solution.”

Members of the audience of this first plenary session received OptINnow gift cards that they can use at the conference or when they return home.

Just before the break, Wendy Cox, vice president of donor experience, announced that because of the generosity of anonymous donors, everyone in the audience received $25 OptINnow gift cards. Conference attendees can use the card this weekend at our OptINnow conference booth, redeeming it to help fund an entrepreneur. Plus, supporters can also add value to the card to help fund entrepreneurs’ loans even faster.

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