UNCDF and The MasterCard Foundation announce recipients of MicroLead Expansion’s Investment

  • September 27, 2013

  • New York, USA

Creating Economic Opportunities for Over One Million People in Sub-Saharan Africa: The MasterCard Foundation and the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) today announced the eight projects from eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that have been selected and awarded a total of $12 million to develop savings-led financial service providers with a focus on rural markets, women, and alternative delivery channels.

The announcement, part of the UNCDF-MasterCard Foundation MicroLead Expansion initiative, will help the selected institutions increase access to responsibly priced and delivered savings services for over one million low-income Sub-Saharan women and men by 2016. MicroLead, a programme initially launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and UNCDF, was expanded in 2011 by a five and a half year, $23.5 million partnership with The MasterCard Foundation.

“Safe and secure savings products help families, particularly those in rural and remote areas, build assets for the future and weather economic shocks,” said Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation. “These projects mean that over one million Africans will gain access to the kinds of financial services and products that enable economic opportunity.”

The projects cover a wide range of approaches, including green field expansion of banks, bank downscaling, MFI transformation into deposit taking institution, village savings and loan association linkages to formal financial institutions, financial cooperative development, and deployment of alternative delivery channels.

MicroLead Expansion received 57 applications from 23 financial or technical service providers covering 27 Sub-Saharan African countries. Awards have been made to: CRDB Bank to start a new bank in Burundi, WOCCU to strengthen the Umurenge Savings and Credit Cooperatives in Rwanda and to create four new credit unions in Liberia and strengthen the national association of credit unions in Liberia, Women’s World Banking to help NBS Bank Malawi downscale into rural areas via agents and mobile money, CARE to link village savings and loan association members to Mwanga Community Bank in Tanzania using technology-enabled applications, MEDA to support Ugafode in Uganda to expand into rural areas with people-centered product design, Opportunity International to support the Ghanaian institution, Sinapi Aba Savings and Loans, in its transformation process and deployment of netbooks to increase savings mobilization and BASIX/PAMIGA and MIFED to support A3C, UCCGN, and CEC in Cameroon to expand into rural markets by employing point of sale devices and mobile money.

“Although the financial services industry is making great strides to increase outreach to those currently un- or under-served, the MicroLead and MicroLead Expansion programmes allow UNCDF to work with market leaders to push frontiers for women, those in rural markets, and those still left behind in the quest for safe, secure savings options,” said Marc Bichler, UNCDF Executive Secretary. “We are honored to be working with The MasterCard Foundation to expand our work that began with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to push the frontier of savings services for those who are still excluded from financial services adapted to their needs.”

In 2008, UNCDF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched MicroLead - a partnership that targeted to reach 525,000 new savers in least developed countries by December 2013. As of today, all targets have been surpassed. In 2011, The MasterCard Foundation and UNCDF concluded an agreement to expand MicroLead in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in rural markets and for women customers. The Expansion programme targets reaching 450,000 savers by December 2016, but based on project applications and negotiated agreements, MicroLead Expansion expects to far surpass this target and instead reach over one million customers, over 50% of whom will be from rural markets and over 50% of whom will be women.

With a specific emphasis on savings, women, rural markets, and technology, MicroLead Expansion is a performance-based programme that will build the capacity of financial institutions to pilot and roll out sustainable financial services, particularly savings services.


UNCDF is the UN’s capital investment agency for the world’s 49 least developed countries. It creates new opportunities for poor people and their communities by increasing access to microfinance and investment capital. UNCDF focuses on Africa and the poorest countries of Asia, with a special commitment to countries emerging from conflict or crisis. It provides seed capital – grants and loans – and technical support to help microfinance institutions reach more poor households and small businesses, and local governments finance the capital investments – water systems, feeder roads, schools, irrigation schemes – that will improve poor peoples’ lives. UNCDF programmes help to empower women, and are designed to catalyze larger capital flows from the private sector, national governments and development partners, for maximum impact toward the Millennium Development Goals. For more information, visit

MicroLead/MicroLead Expansion, UNCDF’s flagship global thematic initiative funded by UNCDF, The MasterCard Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has provided access to financial services to over 450,000 (net) depositors globally since 2009. For more information, visit and

The MasterCard Foundation is an independent, global organization based in Toronto, Canada, with more than $7 billion in assets. Through collaboration with partner organizations in 46 countries, it is creating opportunities for all people to learn and prosper. The Foundation’s programs promote financial inclusion and advance youth learning, mostly in Africa. Established in 2006 through the generosity of MasterCard Worldwide when it became a public company, the Foundation is a separate and independent entity. The policies, operations, and funding decisions of the Foundation are determined by its own Board of Directors and President and CEO. To learn more about The MasterCard Foundation, please visit