Opportunity International announced last week a philanthropic grant of $1.2 million from Caterpillar Inc. through the Caterpillar Foundation.
The latest of a dozen moderate-sized grants to Opportunity International since 1994, this donation represents the largest gift ever by Caterpillar to a microfinance organization. The grant will assist Opportunity International in expanding initiatives in China and six African nations.
A pioneer in microfinance since 1971, and today one of the largest microfinance organizations, Opportunity International offers small business loans, insurance, banking services and business training to the poorest of the working poor in 28 countries worldwide.
The grant comes as Opportunity International expands its presence in Asia and Africa. Approximately $750,000 of the Caterpillar funding is allocated to support Opportunity International’s programs in China. The new funding is expected to create about 5,000 new jobs in the city of Hefei in Anhui province over the next three years, providing the capital to benefit about 25,000 people. The Caterpillar grant is the largest gift received by Opportunity International for its operations in China, where the organization opened an office in 2003.
The remainder of the grant will be distributed equally to Opportunity International’s programs in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Mozambique, Malawi and Rwanda. In addition to providing credit in the form of microloans, Opportunity International has opened banks in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa that feature innovations such as biometric fingerprint identification technology, mobile ATMs, savings accounts, low-cost money transfers and health, life and even crop insurance for the poorest of the working poor. The Africa portion of the grant will help more than 28,000 poor people, bringing the total expected impact of the Caterpillar grant to benefit more than 53,000 workers, entrepreneurs and their family members.
“We have a great deal of confidence in Opportunity International to effectively deliver services to help the working poor in these important two regions of the world,” said Jim Owens, Caterpillar chairman and CEO. “We enjoy a long history with Opportunity International during which time they have consistently demonstrated an ongoing expertise in microfinance and a track record of integrity. We are pleased to expand our support of their work.”