Banking on Africa

Jul 16, 2014

Banking on Africa July Update

In 2013, Opportunity International reached 1.2 million savings clients in Africa — a nearly threefold increase from 2009. Client deposits total $68 million. Over $120 million is circulating the continent in Opportunity loans, helping our clients work toward cleaner water, better education, safer homes, and a brighter future.

Agricultural finance grew tremendously in 2013, with 26% more loans disbursed to farmers than in 2012. The total amount loaned was $20.4 million, or more than double the amount loaned the year before. Opportunity increased its outreach to smallholder farmers in five countries — Ghana, Malawi, Uganda, Mozambique, and Rwanda — with plans to launch outreach in Tanzania in 2014. Technology will play a key role in agriculture as well, with Opportunity piloting loans to finance tractors and GPS technology.

Education was another major focus of 2013, with Opportunity Uganda disbursing over 100 School Improvement loans and 4500 School Fee loans. Opportunity Uganda also launched EduSave in 2013, a free education insurance that ensures school fee funding in case of a parent’s death or disablement, and now covers nearly 13,000 families. Opportunity Malawi also launched EduSave in 2013, protecting the education of over 127,000 children.

Finally, Opportunity increased access to financial services in Africa, through the expansion of mobile banking in Tanzania, Uganda, and Malawi. Opportunity’s branch in the Democratic Republic of Congo received its official deposit-taking license in November of 2013, meaning that poor families now have a safe place to save their hard-earned money.

Apr 9, 2014

Meet Patrick from Uganda

Just nine months after leaving a low-paying job in politics, Patrick is operating a thriving sugarcane farm. After years of working a job that left Patrick and his wife in a constant struggle to make ends meet, they finally acted on their dream to expand their small sugarcane plot. Motivated by the need to make repairs to their family home which was literally crumbling around them, the couple took a leap of faith and met with an Opportunity Uganda loan officer.

Because of your support, Opportunity Uganda was able to launch the MEOS™ data capture system, an automated/mobile data solution for collecting, analyzing and processing critical client data. Agriculture loan officers are helping farmers like Patrick register for bank accounts and loans without leaving their fields. They are also using the technology to GPS map the farms and capture biometrics and profiling information that provide specific details about the farm plot and the family’s needs.

Today, Patrick can access capital when he needs it most, such as during planting season when he needs to purchase inputs like seeds, pesticides and mulch. He gains the flexibility to make repayments during harvest times when money is more liquid. “The cycle of income growth and watching my plot become a plantation has been fantastic,” he says. Patrick was recently voted the president of the Kaliro Sugarcane Growers Association—a group of nearly 1,000 farmers who sell their crops to the local sugarcane factory.

With the help of Opportunity, he has doubled his plantation to 45 acres and improved the quality of his crops. As he continues to grow his business, he is making repairs to his home and plans to construct a larger one. Most importantly, Patrick is confident he will improve his family’s future by ensuring his seven children can go to school.

Jan 7, 2014

Rural Outreach Update in Africa

In the developing world, people living in rural and remote areas are not only the most impoverished but also the least likely to have access to financial services, especially when the nearest financial institution may be hours—or even days—away. In response to this challenge, Opportunity International brings financial services to where our clients live and work, no matter the distance.

Opportunity International is addressing the financial needs of isolated rural communities through innovative technologies and an expanding network of banks. Our client-facing technologies provide convenient financial access, allowing impoverished people to quickly access their funds so they can focus on generating income and achieving their financial goals. These groundbreaking client services equip Opportunity International banks to reach more people outside of urban centers—and at a lower cost through increasingly cashless and paperless processes.

Here is a program and product update on our rural expansion work in Africa. 

  • Low-Cost Branches: Opportunity deploys hub branches in trade centers and surround them with small, low-cost outlets as spokes that reach surrounding rural communities. New branches are in development worldwide. Whether full service, mobile or satellite kiosk, these banks bring hope through economic opportunity to families who have no other access to financial services.
  • Mobile Banking:  Vans Armored banking vehicles travel bring banking services to rural clients.
  • Agent Banking:  Opportunity installs point-of-sale devices in bank branches, mobile vans and local businesses to allow clients to conveniently bank in a variety of easy-to-reach locations. This extends the reach of the bank without the cost of establishing a full satellite branch.
  • ATMs: These machines enable clients to bank at any time.
  • Cell Phone Banking: Mobile phones are used as a channel for financial information and services, providing clients with banking access anywhere with cellular reception.

Before Opportunity International’s mobile bank came to his town in Mozambique, Lucas Chingore was among the millions of unbanked with little hope of establishing a business. It was a half-day trek to the closest bank and the only loans he could obtain were from unreliable sources that charged high interest. For rural entrepreneurs like Lucas, Opportunity International’s mobile banks make weekly stops within walking distance of their homes and businesses, saving clients valuable time and money.


Oct 11, 2013

With your investment we are able to help so many in Africa

An orphaned child in Ghana maintains her spot in the classroom.

A Rwandan rice farmer sells her crop at a higher price.

A seamstress in Tanzania purchases her third machine and hires yet another woman from her village.

A worried mom in Malawi is able to use money from her savings account to purchase medicine for her sick son.

With your investment we are able to help so many in Africa. Here is one example of the impact we have made with your support: Imagine living in an area where you are lucky to live past 45, the infant mortality rate is 17 percent and more than 34 million children are orphans due to poor healthcare.

This is the reality of life in sub-Saharan Africa. The African continent is at the epicenter of a health crisis caused by a combination of poor education, low funds and insufficient access to healthcare. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the African region carries 24 percent of the world’s disease burden but produces only 3 percent of its workers and less than 1 percent of the world’s health expenditure. The cycle of poverty both causes and exacerbates the poor health of people in Africa.

People living in poverty often reside in overcrowded living conditions, are malnourished, and lack education as well as access to clean water and healthcare facilities. These factors leave them extremely vulnerable to a wide range of infectious diseases. Poor health prolongs the cycle of poverty by causing low productivity and creating large numbers of orphans. There’s also the expense that goes along with disease treatment. 

Unlike developed nations such as the U.S., where our greatest health issues are noncommunicable illness such as heart disease, in sub-Saharan Africa infectious diseases cause the biggest problems. Communicable diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS are the No. 1 cause of death on the African continent. These are preventable and treatable diseases that can be significantly reduced through education and simple preventative measures.

Opportunity International is taking a step toward solving the African health crisis by addressing both sides of the issue. Opportunity provides health education to our loan clients through Trust Groups. Our Trust Groups comprise 10 to 30 loan clients who participate in a training course on financial literacy, business practices and healthcare issues. They learn about common infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, and how to treat and prevent them. By providing our clients with loans we help them to work their way out of poverty.

With access to financial services they are able to make more money and enjoy better nutrition and living conditions, becoming, as a result, less vulnerable to infectious diseases. These financial services empower entrepreneurs to serve their communities by creating jobs and improving access to clean water, healthcare and education.In this way Opportunity takes a unique, multifaceted approach to helping lift communities out of poverty. Our clients inspire us by overcoming these barriers, transforming their communities and working toward a healthier Africa. 

Aug 6, 2013

Creating Change in the DRC

Loan client Helene
Loan client Helene

Helene is from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She supports her mother, four children, and five orphans. Before Helen began working with Opportunity International, she was unable to feed her family every day. So, at least two or three nights a week everyone went to sleep on with an empty stomach and hunger pangs. To make matters worse, she couldn’t afford to send her children to school. Helen was trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty she didn’t think she would ever escape. And without education, it was a cycle her children seemed likely to endure as they grew into adults. 

Then, Helene received a $100 loan from Opportunity International to expand her fruit selling business. With the education and buesiness training that accompanied her loan and her own dedication and hard work - her business grew. She more than doubled her weekly income from $38 to $86, enough for her to feed her family every day and pay for her children’s schooling.

Opportunity International is currently increasing its presence in the DRC to reach more people in need like Helene. Opportunity  now operates three banks and have distributed 12,891 loans to nearly 6,000 loan clients in the DRC. By the end of 2013, Opportunity DRC expects to reach 2,000 new loan clients and give out $700,000 in new loans.

“I can give my children better nutrition plus put them in school” Helene said. In the future, Helene’s plans to continue to grow her business and take on caring for even more orphans from her community. Every day, Opportunity International, is helping people in the DRC like Helene fully utilize their abilities and lead happier, healthier, and more peaceful lives. 

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Project Leader

Ally Lynch

Oakbrook, IL Afghanistan

Where is this project located?