Inspire Malawians Out of Poverty

by Opportunity International

Malawi is one of the least developed and most impoverished countries on earth. Nearly 53 percent of its 15 million inhabitants live below the poverty line. Opportunity Malawi was granted a full commercial banking license in 2002 and opened its first branch in Lilongwe in 2003. The bank targets the economically active but marginalized Malawians living in underserved areas, including semi-urban and rural areas.

In Malawi, 85 percent of the population lives in rural areas. Our goals in Malawi and throughout most of Africa are to reach these remote communities. Opportunity International uses mobile bank vehicles, ATMs and point-of-sale (POS) devices in local businesses. This allows people to access services right in their own villages, saving them the time and cost of travel. Opportunity International also offers biometric fingerprint identification on an ID card, keeping a client’s savings secure.

Becuase of your support, we have been able to offer 11 customized savings products, including youth savings accounts in Malawi. We have also invested heavilty in farmers. This initiative serves rural farmers in Malawi and other African nations with agriculture-centric loans, training and support. 

Thank you for all of your support for the thousands of impoverished Malawians. The problem is larger than just one country. 24 out of 25 of the world's poorest countries are in Africa. In order to have the largest impact on this region, we would like to combine this project into a broader "Banking on Africa, 7660" project. This project spans multiple countries including - GhanaKenyaRwandaTanzaniaThe Democratic Republic of CongoMalawiMozambiqueSouth Africa, and Uganda. This project has the same mission and vision of #6647 which is to provide access to financial solutions empowering people living in poverty to transform their lives, their children’s futures and their communities.

Her journey started with you. Families living in chronic poverty are making the most of the opportunities you make possible, living their dream of having a different and better life. Because you invested in Opportunity Malawi, we can continue to invest in people like Beatrice Ngombe of Lilongwe, Malawi as we expand deeper into rural communities where the daily challenges associated with poverty hit the hardest. 


Each month, Beatrice hires transport for dried fish, rice and soap to sell at markets in Zambia. For the 16-hour return trip she invests her profit to buy 50 bolts of the finest cloth in Zambia to sell to store owners in Lilongwe.  

Remarkably, this 57-year-old woman, who has lived in extreme poverty most of her life, has learned to negotiate the transport, storage and sale of these goods, establishing a supply chain spanning two countries. It all began when Beatrice left her abusive husband and opened a goods stall to support her two children. A natural entrepreneur, she believed that with hard work and ingenuity she could build a successful business. Beatrice applied for her first loan and opened a savings account with Opportunity Malawi in 2004. Today, on her 7th loan, this one valuing $2,700, she has grown her business from a table top to an import/export business, creating jobs for 12 people.  

With Beatrice’s increased profits and savings, and a great deal of determination over eight years, she has constructed a home with a concrete floor, running water and electricity. She has also secured plots with plans to build rental homes. Perhaps most importantly, she has impacted the future of her grandson and three granddaughters, all orphaned at an early age, by paying for their secondary education. She also mentors several young women in her community, encouraging them to save money and build their businesses. Despite the difficult circumstances of her life, Beatrice lives with energy, passion, dignity and hope.  She says, “I am a living example of what a woman can accomplish through hard work and economic empowerment.”


Malawi is cautiously returning to lending after the intentional slow-down associated with the 2011-2012 macroeconomic issues in the country. The School Improvement loan was re-launched in December alongside the launch of School Fee loans. As a result, the active outstanding School Improvement loans rose from 15 to 18, a growth of 20% since the third quarter of 2012. This return to growth is a positive sign that we will achieve new growth in 2013 as projected. Clients are expected to begin taking advantage of the School Fee loans in the first half of 2013. 

  • With the 2012 launch of its youth financial services program (ages 18-24), Opportunity Malawi now has 5,214 youth savers.
  • The bank also distributed $92,314 microloans and training to 166 youth in groups and $1,510 to six youth on an individual lending basis.
  • The bank launched the EduSave product in March 2013.  

Opportunity’s EduSave product, designed with MicroEnsure, directly addresses this gap by enabling parents to earn an extra safety net. EduSave works when a parent saves enough money to qualify for free insurance. For example, when a parent saves $25 they qualify for $125 in school fees insurance – if they die or become permanently disabled, a trusted individual receives a payout of 5x the savings balance to keep the child in school.

The product launched in Malawi with 170,000 parents qualified for coverage on the first day. Our average savings account holder has 3.8 children – therefore, on its first day, EduSave covered 646,000 Malawian children. The product also went live on a national scale in Ghana and is set to launch in Uganda. 

With your support, we are funding the loans, services and expansion that allow smallholder farmers to increase their crops and grow more food. As harvest quality and quantities rise, food security improves, school fees are paid, homes are improved and jobs are created, families and the local community reap the benefits. Through this project, you are allowing Opportunity to extend a full range of financial services to rural Malawi, including access to savings accounts and the provision of comprehensive, crop-specific agricultural loans to farmers.


  • Opportunity Malawi’s ability to expand agricultural lending has been reduced by the continuing macroeconomic issues in the country including high inflation. Fuel continues to be in short supply, limiting the ability to manage the rural program as well as affecting the mobile vans. 
  • In the second quarter, Opportunity Malawi disbursed 18,788 agriculture loans, up from 16,183 in the first quarter. At the end of June, the bank had 16,522 loans to farmers, up from 13,149 in the prior quarter with an outstanding agriculture portfolio nearly tripling to value $3.7 million.
  • The bank is now lending to smallholder farmers in soya, paprika, coffee, groundnuts, tea, Irish potatoes, tobacco, maize and sugarcane.


Client Brenda Mwenitete
Client Brenda Mwenitete

Brenda Mwenitete is the hardworking owner of a knitting shop in the Chitipa Market. She recalls the challenges she faced before approaching Opportunity, struggling to earn a profit without a knitting machine.

You gave Brenda the opportunity and today, with the right equipment, she has increased production and her income significantly. With operating capital, she has effectively reduced the number of trips into Lilongwe, the capital city, to purchase raw materials –  traveling once per month instead of weekly has allowed her to lower costs, increasing her net profit. With a broader inventory and improved ability to fill orders, she has broken the barriers that barred her from earning a profit. Brenda recently purchased two knitting machines and hired an employee, stretching her impact beyond her own transformation to extend to the larger community influencing the economy through job creation. She enjoys the relationship she has with her Trust Group and praises the way in which bank staff visits customers frequently to mentor and support. “My loan officer has been my lifeline, instilling a sense of belonging in the community.” Brenda has transformed into a respected businesswoman and she has employed her new sense of confidence to take on a leadership role as group secretary.

Brenda formed the dream; you gave her the opportunity to make it a reality. On behalf of Betha and Brenda and thousands of other families, thank you very much for your partnership.  



About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

Opportunity International

Location: Chicago, IL - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Ally Lynch
Oak Brook, Illinois United States

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

Still want to help?

Support another project run by Opportunity International that needs your help, such as:

Find a Project

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence


Woman Holding a Gift Card
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle

Sign up for the GlobalGiving Newsletter

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.