In sub-Saharan Africa the vast majority of the poor lack access to even the most basic financial services. Out of an economically active population of more than 300 million, only about 20 million people have access to financial services in any form. Reasons cited by financial institutions for not targeting this segment of the market include high operational costs, the informality of the populations? economic activities, and their perceived lack of credit worthiness. Recent World Bank data shows a strong correlation between financial sector development and reductions in poverty and inequality, and experience in Asia has demonstrated the credit worthiness of the poor. To achieve faster rates of development in Africa, the poor must gain access to savings, credit, and insurance that are targeted to their needs. This proposal focuses on expanding savings-led groups and access to financial services in sub-Saharan Africa.
In 1991, CARE International in Niger developed and implemented Mata Masu Dubara (MMD), a self-managed system of the purest form of financial intermediation. Based solely on member savings and small, self-managed groups, MMD are now a membership-based program servicing approximately 192,000 rural women in one of the poorest countries in Africa. These women have collectively amassed more than $14 million in savings. In 1999, CARE started to promote the MMD Program?s Village Saving and Loan (VS&L) methodology outside of Niger, and today programs are operating in 26 countries in Africa alone, having reached over 2.5million people. In Kenya alone, the Financial Inclusio program has helped over 700,000 individuals.
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