MasterCard Foundation's New Prize to Help the Poor Connect to the Financial Mainstream

The MasterCard Foundation has been heavily involved in promoting global financial inclusion in developing countries for a while now. Although the foundation typically prioritizes its program giving and partnerships in Africa, its latest financial inclusion contest is casting a wider net not only to include poor African countries, but developing countries in Asia and Latin America.

Related: Behind the MasterCard Foundation’s Financial Work in Africa

The Clients at the Centre prize is intended "to find and recognize the most customer-focused organization working to enable poor people in developing countries to access formal financial products and services." It offers two types of support to its winners. The first is a $100,000 cash award to help with support and scaling activities. The second is an additional $50,000 worth of consulting support. Only legally registered and operating companies that provide financial products and services to impoverished populations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are eligible to submit an application. You can read more about The foundation’s judging criteria here.

The MasterCard Foundation hasn’t announced whether this is an ongoing contest or a one-off. For now, applications are due by June 30, 2015. The three to five finalists chosen will be invited to The MasterCard Foundation Symposium on Financial Inclusion held in Cape Town, South Africa, November 19-20, 2015. Finalists will make their presentations and the winner will be chosen by the audience.

Although the winner is chosen by the audience, this isn’t an American Idol-esque voting scheme. The Symposium on Financial Inclusion’s audience will include approximately 300 financial inclusion experts from around the world.

The MasterCard Foundation is independent of the company MasterCard Worldwide. Both the foundation and the company have heavy interests in promoting financial inclusion for the world’s poorest populations, especially Africa. According to the MasterCard Foundation, the reason it concentrates its efforts in Africa is that the generation of people under 25 “has an unprecedented opportunity to lead profound transformation.” And it’s betting big on Africa’s potential.

The foundation recently poured $50 million into its MasterCard Fund for Rural Prosperity, which supports the development of innovative ideas for financial products and services that are accessible to the rural poor. It also invested nearly $40 million in its partnership with Opportunity International to help provide financial access to people in rural areas of Tanzania, Ghana, Malawi, Uganda, and Rwanda.

All things finance-related are not the only areas of concern for The MasterCard Foundation. It recently pledged $500 million to its Scholars Program, which offers young Africans access to quality education at both the secondary and post-secondary levels. More recently, the foundation, working in conjunction with TechnoServe, announced a $25.9 million commitment to the STRYDE 2.0 program, which focuses on providing job skills development programs to help young people succeed in small business, agriculture, and secure formal jobs.

Related: Making STRYDEs: How the MasterCard Foundation is Helping African Youth Boost Their Income