MasterCard Foundation has side aside a US$50 million fund for rural prosperity programme aimed at improving smallholder farming and people living in poverty prone areas in rural Africa, including Zambia.
Foundation director of financial Ann Miles said the funding would promote various innovations in rural financial services.
Ms Miles who is in charge of Inclusion and Youth Livelihoods explained that the fund had two categories of competitions, hence the allocation of US$15 million to support new products, services or processes that increased access to finance for the rural poor and US$35 million to support scaling up or pilots that have the potential to drive financial inclusion for smallholder farmers in new more geographic areas.
She said over 70 percent of families in Sub-Saharan Africa derived a large portion of their income from agricultural activities, adding that it was therefore MasterCard Foundation’s aim to support projects that had the potential to make a difference.
Ms Miles said the majority of rural households in Africa remained financially excluded, adding that many financial service providers lacked the knowledge and capacity to develop appropriate products and services that would enable the rural poor and smallholder farmers to become financially included. She said Zambia was among the eight scaling competition countries of focus for the MasterCard Foundation fund for rural prosperity to improve the agriculture sector.
Ms Miles explained that in 2015, a total of US$6.9 million fund innovation competition was awarded to nine financial service companies in Sub-Saharan Africa, to move their ideas from conception to implementation.
“Last year, we were very impressed by the quantity, quality and originality of applications in the fund for rural prosperity’s first innovation competition, and this year, we expect to see even more proposals coming forth focused on changing lives for the better by enabling people to be part of the formal financial sector in their countries,” she said.
Ms Miles said the MasterCard Foundation was working with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa.
The MasterCard Foundation fund for rural prosperity is managed by KPMG International Development Advisory Services Africa, and a global network of professional firms providing audit, tax and advisory services.
Some of the 24 innovation competition countries of focus for the MasterCard Foundation fund for rural prosperity include Kenya, Zambia, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Burundi.