Not too long ago, The MasterCard Foundation launched its Rural Prosperity Fund with the goal of helping up to 1 million of Africa’s rural poor population escape the poverty cycle by improving their access to financial products and services.
The total $50 million commitment from the foundation included $15 million dedicated to an Innovation Competition, which supports the development of innovative ideas for financial products and services that are accessible to the rural poor in Africa. The remaining $35 million was committed to the fund’s scaling competition.
At the recent African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) The MasterCard Foundation announced the inaugural winners of the competitions. The foundation gave away around $7 million to nine organizations advancing innovative work in financial inclusion for smallholder farmers in Africa. Among the biggest winners though, were the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and Mercy Corps. These received $15 million and $25 million, respectively, from the foundation.
AGRA was established by the Gates and Rockefeller foundations in the mid-2000s due, in part, to former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan’s global appeal for a green agricultural revolution unique to Africa in an increased effort to help solve food insecurity.
Now, AGRA has its hands in just about every issue related to advancing the economic security of rural farmers across 17 sub-Saharan African countries including (but certainly not limited to) seed systems, soil health, market access, policymaking and advocacy, gender in agriculture and finance.
The MasterCard Foundation’s $15 million award to AGRA is going toward its project to increase access to financial services and support for over 700,000 smallholder farmers in Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania. The overall goal of the project is to help farmers increase crop yields and improve their economic security. While AGRA focuses its efforts on smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa in general, this particular project is emphasizing female farmers.
Dr. Agnes Kalibata, AGRA President calls the project “well-aligned” with AGRA’s overall goals, highlighting that of the smallholder farmers the organization aims to help, 65 percent are women. AGRA wasn’t the only major agro-development outfit to walk away with a big win here.
Other big news announced by The MasterCard Foundation at AGRF was a $25 million partnership with Mercy Corps’ AgriFin Accelerate Program. AgriFin builds financial services and management tools aimed at helping smallholder farmers improve productivity, financial stability, and food security. Mercy Corps bundles its financial tools and services to make them more affordable for poor farmers around the world.
Access to financial products and services act as a gateway to improved economic security, which in turn, becomes a powerful tool for breaking generational poverty cycles. As far as The MasterCard Foundation’s work in this realm, perhaps AGRA President Dr. Agnes Kalibata put it best when she said, “By focusing on improving financial inclusion, The MasterCard Foundation is definitely addressing one of the weakest links in agriculture systems in Africa.”