Part of Opportunity International’s “$1 Billion for 100 Million People” campaign including partners: philanthropists John and Jacque Weberg, Lenovo Corporation, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
NEW YORK, Sept. 20, 2006 — Opportunity International, a leading global provider of microfinance services to poor families in developing countries, today announced to the nonpartisan Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting that it plans to mobilize $500 million by 2010 to help 50 million poor people work their way out of poverty by 2012. Speakers at the meeting include Laura Bush, Bill Gates and Colin Powell.
This is the midpoint of Opportunity International’s total “$1 Billion for 100 Million People” campaign, also announced today, which will mobilize $1 billion by 2012 to help over 100 million poor people by 2015 move beyond poverty in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.
United States Ambassadors Tony P. Hall, former “U.S. Ambassador to the Poor” through the United Nations, and Mark W. Erwin, former U.S. Ambassador to three African nations, have agreed to serve as co-chairs of Opportunity International’s “$1 Billion for 100 Million People” campaign.
“This is an historic commitment by a microfinance institution to give the poorest of the poor a working chance. On behalf of the board of directors and staff of Opportunity International, I am honored to share such an announcement with the world leaders at the CGI,” said Christopher Crane, president and chief executive officer, Opportunity International, Oak Brook, Ill.
Of the 100 million poor people benefiting from this initiative, 60 million will include those who receive small business loans and their family members. The additional 40 million people will work in the jobs created by the loan clients, or participate in insurance services and savings accounts. Of the $1 billion, $250 million (after expenses) will come from donations, with an additional $750 million from commercial loans, investments, lines of credit and client savings. The $1 billion will be mobilized through 2012, and the benefits will accrue to 2015 to reach more than 100 million people.
Partners Join In Announcement
Opportunity International recently received a commitment for $5 million per year for the next 10 years from entrepreneurs John and Jacque Weberg, the largest gift ever made to a microfinance organization. In addition, the Lenovo Corporation, which is leading a coalition of technology firms to support microfinance operations, has recently committed a minimum donation of $1 million in computer hardware to the organization. The Global Development Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $2.2 million to Opportunity International over the next three years for financial services for the rural poor of Africa.
“We are proud to be among the people and organizations that have supported Opportunity International’s vision and operations,” said Sylvia Mathews, president of the Global Development Program for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Opportunity International demonstrates very clearly how small loans and other financial services can make an important difference in the lives of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”
Opportunity International Enjoying Record Growth To Transform Lives
Founded in 1971 by businesspeople, Opportunity International has grown over the last five years at a compound annual rate of 28 percent and is aggressively expanding into a broader array of financial services. In 2005, Opportunity International mobilized $82 million for its microfinance programs benefiting 6 million people in 28 developing nations in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. Opportunity International has 6,000 employees, the majority of whom provide education and training to loan clients. Opportunity International is motivated by Jesus Christ’s call to serve the poor.
In addition to its work in microloans, Opportunity International is also a world leader in developing insurance for the poor. In 2005, the organization provided insurance to 2.6 million poor people and successfully piloted crop insurance in Africa with the World Bank. It also develops technology to lower transaction costs, such as the 60,000 “smart cards” issued to poor people at Opportunity International Bank of Malawi in Africa. Opportunity International provides financial services adapted to meet the needs of the poor, opens banks where the poor, even the illiterate, are welcomed, and gives training designed to foster holistic transformation in the lives of the clients, their families and communities.
“Opportunity International is committed to advancing breakthroughs in financial products that help poor families work their way out of poverty, retain their hard-earned profits and reduce their vulnerability,” said Crane. “Three billion people, half the world’s population, attempt to live on less than $2 a day. This $1 billion initiative moves us closer to the day when every human being can have access to needed financial services.”
About the Clinton Global Initiative
The Clinton Global Initiative is a non-partisan endeavor, bringing together a carefully selected group of the world’s best minds and most distinguished problem solvers to focus on practical, effective measures to address: energy and climate change, global public health, poverty alleviation, reconciling religious and ethnic conflict. This Initiative is unlike other world conferences in one respect: it is determined to change things now, by discussing some of the world’s most pressing problems; detailing successful responses to them; seeking the best new solutions; and most important, obtaining a specific commitment from each participant to take action in one of the topics discussed. For more information, see www.clintonfoundation.org/clinton-global-initiative.
About Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. Learn more at www.gatesfoundation.org or join the conversation at Facebook and Twitter.
This grant, which builds on previous grants the Gates Foundation has given to Opportunity International, is part of the foundation’s Financial Services for the Poor initiative, which is working with a wide range of public and private partners to harness technology and innovation to bring quality, affordable savings accounts and other financial services to the doorsteps of the poor in the developing world.
About Lenovo Group Ltd.
Lenovo, with executive headquarters in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, is a unique “new world company” that combines best practices from across the globe to build the industry’s best engineered PC’s. Following the acquisition of the former IBM PC Division the new Lenovo is the third largest PC-maker in the world. Lenovo has R&D, call centers, and manufacturing centers on five continents. Lenovo’s offerings include the rock-solid ThinkPad and ThinkCentre business PC’s and the new 3000 line of PC’s that make computing simpler and easier to manage for small businesses and consumers. For more information about Lenovo, see www.lenovo.com.
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.