Fighting Poverty in Africa Through Financial Inclusion

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Posted on 12/18/2013
Microfinancing programs can make a difference in the lives of families living in poverty. Photo by Jake Lyell.
Microfinancing programs can make a difference in the lives of families living in poverty. Photo by Jake Lyell.

ChildFund works in many countries to help families in need become self-sufficient and launch their own businesses through microloans, skills training and other resources. One such project is providing microloans to families so that they can learn new skills, launch businesses and emerge from generational poverty. According to an AllAfrica article, several member states in the United Nations are investing substantial sums to expand financial opportunities to more families.

Ambitious Goals

Poverty is a complex problem that produces many societal challenges. Although people living in urban slums face serious difficulties, the rural poor suffer from many of the same problems, compounded by isolation. Many families in rural sub-Saharan Africa live on less than US$2 per day. Career training, savings-and-loans institutions and funds for starting a business help families become empowered and self-sufficient, which is why many members of the United Nations have invested considerable sums in expanding access to financial services to countries across sub-Saharan Africa.

In Ethiopia, more than 80 percent of the country's population of 84 million lives in rural areas. For this reason, Ethiopia was chosen to be the location of a three-day work visit focusing on financial inclusion by three United Nations food agencies: the World Food Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Local farmers were provided with seeds by the FAO, and regional food cooperatives then purchased the yields from the farmers' harvests with funds provided indirectly by the IFAD. In addition, the WFP provided funding to local schools so they could purchase produce and food for their school meal programs. Ultimately, the goal of this project and others like it is to establish a self-sustaining program through which local families and farmers can work together to solve food security problems.

Empowering Families

Large-scale projects such as those undertaken by the United Nations have already shown promise in helping people break the cycle of dependency on foreign aid and work toward a brighter future. In Sierra Leone, ChildFund's microfinancing initiatives have also yielded substantial benefits.

More than a decade ago, ChildFund began offering microloans to families returning to Sierra Leone after the civil war that ravaged the country. Since then, Salone Microfinance Trust, a financing organization originally established by ChildFund, has grown and helped thousands of families with financial support. SMT now helps more than 8,000 clients and has expanded to eight branch offices employing 61 staff members.

During a visit to Sierra Leone, ChildFund President and CEO Anne Lynam Goddard learned about one particular SMT success story. Yanku Sesay lost both his hands when rebel fighters came to his village. Yanku received eight micro loans, which have allowed him to set up a small business trading pepper, as well as supplementing his income as a landlord. Yanku's story is just one among many, highlighting the value and lasting benefit of microfinance programs.

ChildFund works around the world to help support families and empower them to emerge from poverty. However, we could not help as many people without your help. Please consider becoming a monthly giving partner today. Your generosity allows us to provide aid where the need is greatest, whether that is providing families with the means to work themselves out of poverty or helping to ensure that children have nutritious food to eat and clean water to drink.