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Uganda and Colombia Opportunity Zones


In 2019, Opportunity International and Milliman Giving Fund entered a partnership to boost prosperity, create and sustain jobs for parents, and provide quality education for children and youth in the Opportunity Economic Zone located in Mityana, Uganda. This initial phase of the partnership was designed to prove our theory of change for the program: increased incomes and jobs for the parents combined with a quality education for their children can accelerate the pace at which families can escape poverty and communities build prosperity.

Beginning in 2023, we continued our partnership to replicate the Opportunity Zone model to Colombia. While the end goal of boosting prosperity and overall outcomes for the Mityana and Cartagena Opportunity Zones are the same, Opportunity will use program interventions/activities tailored to the local needs. 

  • Project Duration: 2020 – 2025
  • Geographic Focus: Mityana, Uganda and Cartagena, Colombia
  • Partners: Milliman Giving Fund, Opportunity International

The Challenge

Uganda has one of the world’s youngest populations, with more than 75% of its citizens under the age of 30 (World Bank, 2019). While youth have few prospects for employment, women in Uganda also face systemic challenges to starting, growing, and scaling their businesses - from access to finance and misperceptions about credit-worthiness, to lower rates of business education and cultural biases. Helping youth and women overcome these challenges is vital for enabling economic recovery and generating sustained growth in Uganda.

Colombia is a country with over 7 million internally displaced people, many of whom have been forced to flee their homes and have sought safety in other areas of the country due to several decades of civil unrest. In addition, there are close to 2 million Venezuelan refugees currently living in Colombia. In the years following the peace talks, Colombia has made some progress in addressing poverty, especially rural poverty. However, once the global coronavirus pandemic hit, nearly every system in place focused on addressing poverty crumbled overnight. Families living in poverty were hit the hardest. Since 2020, the number of Colombians living in poverty has doubled to approximately 6.3 million - either falling into poverty (<$3.12/day) or pushed further into extreme poverty (<$1.34/day). Cartagena and Barranquilla have the highest food insecurity rates among the main 23 cities in Colombia.

Our Approach

The partnership with the Milliman Giving Fund will allow Opportunity International to achieve several important outcomes:

  • Increased access to capital for micro, small, and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the zones, addressing unique challenges for women and youth participation (program target clients).
  • Sustained and increased employment created by MSMEs operating in the agriculture and education sectors (key sectors).
  • Increased financial products and resources to address barriers affecting MSME owners, women and youth in the Opportunity Zones.

To achieve these outcomes, we will: 

  1. release additional capital (loans) to MSMEs, impacting nearly 150,000 lives in the two Opportunity Zones in Mityana and Cartagena; 
  2. provide technical and management support to the local financial institutions (FIs) to support MSMEs in the zones;
  3. use a portion of philanthropic funds to hire, train, and incentivize local FIs that commit to serving Opportunity’s target clients - farmers, agribusinesses, women, youth, school proprietors, and parents;
  4. provide training and business support services to MSMEs operating in two key sectors: agriculture and education; and
  5. train youth in vocational and entrepreneurship skills and increase economic participation of women. 


In Mityana

  • Train youth in vocational and entrepreneurship skills and disburse startup loans to youth and women, increasing economic participation and opportunities for women and youth
  • Disburse AgFinance loans and provide training through Farmer Support Agents to improve yields and incomes of rural farmers and connect farmers and agribusinesses to digital accounts
  • Disburse EduFinance loans to parents and schools so (1) parents can send children to school, and (2) schools can improve learning environments and improve education quality

In Cartagena

  • Provide savings and loan members with financial literacy training, improved saving capacity, and access to loans through Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs)
  • Increase number of schools enrolled in EduQuality services, and school fee loans to parents, to provide thousands of children with improved education access through our EduFinance program
  • Launch AgFinance in 2025, building on success in Uganda, providing loans and training to our first farmers in the Cartagena Zone through a new Farmer Support Agent network

Project Details


Agriculture, Microenterprise


Milliman Giving Fund



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