Agriculture is big business across the African continent and The MasterCard Foundation has been making some pretty major investments in this sector, especially to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. It wasn’t that long ago that the foundation introduced its $50 million Rural Prosperity Fund, which aims to help up to 1 million of Africa’s rural poor population escape the poverty cycle by improving their access to financial products and services.
Shortly after announcing the fund, the foundation awarded $15 million award to Gates-Rockefeller outfit AGRA to support its project extending access to financial services and support for smallholder farmers in Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania. Now, The MasterCard Foundation is betting big once again with a new $15.4 million initiative also aimed at helping African’s rural poor.
The MasterCard Foundation has partnered up with the impact investor and agribusiness project development outfit AgDevCo to launch the new initiative, based in Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. The overall goal of the initiative is to increase smallholder farmers’ income through AgDevCo’s Smallholder Development Unit (SDU).
The SDU increase farmers' productivity by providing training, implementing mobile technology solutions, and brokering long-term purchase contracts with reliable agribusinesses.
The director of the Master Card Foundation’s Financial Inclusion and Youth Livelihoods programs, Ann Miles, explained a few key points in the new partnership, stating, “We are excited about the potential of this work with AgDevCo to drive the adoption of new technologies—such as mobile phones, cashless payments and micro-insurance products—by a younger generation of African farmers.”
Ever since The MasterCard Foundation named smallholder farmers in Africa as one of its top beneficiaries, the foundation has been on a funding rampage—in a good way. According to the foundation, it has already invested some $175 million in agricultural finance projects in Africa with the hope of improving the livelihoods of an estimated 3.5 million poor people across the continent.
Readers of Inside Philanthropy will notice that we write about The MasterCard Foundation a lot. The reason is that this funder—which is completely independent of its namesake company—has seriously deep pockets and is incredibly active, with an exclusive focus on global development. In fact, with assets last reported at $8.2 billion, The MasterCard Foundation is among the biggest philanthropic entities in the world.