Gates Foundation Awards $11 Million to CARE for Financial Services Project

Gates Foundation Awards $11 Million to CARE for Financial Services Project

CARE has announced an $11 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for an initiative designed to provide financial services to poor households in rural Africa.

Funded through the foundation's Financial Services for the Poor initiative, the Save Up - Access to Financial Services through Savings Associations and Linkages program will incorporate some 300,000 individuals — 70 percent of them women — into village savings and loan associations (VS&L) in rural areas and urban slums in Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda. The program is designed to link at least 20 percent of participants to existing financial institutions so they can access formal financial services such as savings accounts, credit, and insurance. Working with households that average five people, Save Up will improve economic opportunity for 1.5 million individuals.

A VS&L is a group of ten to twenty members — usually women — who save small sums of money each week, building savings to pay for basic necessities and to access loans. The loans, which are repaid with interest, can be used to start or expand small businesses that improve family incomes through investments such as buying fertilizer for crops, acquiring an animal for breeding, or setting up a small sales kiosk.

"CARE's experience is that when women have the tools to save and invest, whole communities benefit," said CARE president and CEO Helene Gayle. "The challenge has been to implement that successful strategy on a larger scale in a sustainable way. Through access to Save Up's village savings and loan associations, millions of people will have the opportunity to improve their lives."