Gates Foundation Awards Unitus $1.46 Million to Drive Innovations in Microfinance Efficiency
Grant will help Unitus accelerate access to financial services for the world’s poor
Redmond, WA–May 22, 2006–Unitus, a creator of innovative solutions to global poverty, announced today that it had received a $1.46 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to identify potential innovations in the efficiency of the microfinance business model. In this three-year project, Unitus will work with four Unitus microfinance institution (MFI) partners in India and Latin America to create substantial improvements in their operational and financial efficiency that can be shared across the industry.
The Gates grant addresses the key challenge facing the microfinance industry: How to accelerate the growth of financial services for the poor. Improving efficiency is crucial to driving the growth necessary to close the gap between the 500 million people who would benefit from access to financial services and the 92 million who have it.
“Unitus has a proven model for partnering with and accelerating the growth of microfinance institutions,” said Unitus President and CEO Geoff Davis. “But despite all the progress we’ve made, millions of poor people still lack access to financial services. This grant from the Gates Foundation will enable us, through our MFI partners, to uncover some of the critical operational and financial hurdles that are hindering scale in this industry.”
Said Sylvia Mathews, President of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: “We’re delighted to collaborate with a recognized innovator such as Unitus on this project. We expect that the microfinance institution partners Unitus will use as the basis for its research will achieve a 10 percent gain in operational efficiency within three years and make other improvements in financial efficiency as a result of this work. This will help the broader industry learn and improve its business model for delivering financial services and allow a much larger percentage of poor people to gain access to those services.”
Unitus, Inc. is a nonprofit organization creating innovative solutions to global poverty using a venture capital approach. Unitus dramatically accelerates the growth of microfinance institutions (MFIs) and demonstrates that many MFIs can be run as profitable, large-scale, poverty-focused businesses with links to formal capital markets. As of May 2006, Unitus had nine MFI partners worldwide serving more than 679,000 poor clients. By 2015 Unitus’s MFI partners plan to reach 10 million clients in India alone. Based in Redmond, WA, USA, and Bangalore, India, Unitus relies on innovative financial instruments and the financial resources of like-minded individuals and foundations to fulfill its mission. Unitus received the 2006 Fast Company Social Capitalist Award for taking an innovative, business-minded approach to alleviating global poverty. For more information about Unitus, please visit: www.unitus.com.
About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to reduce inequities and improve lives around the world. In developing countries, it focuses on improving health, reducing extreme poverty, and increasing access to technology in public libraries. In the United States, the foundation seeks to ensure that all people have access to a great education and to technology in public libraries. In its local region, it focuses on improving the lives of low-income families. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Patty Stonesifer and Co-chairs William H. Gates Sr., Bill Gates, and Melinda French Gates. More information is available at www.gatesfoundation.org.