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At U.N. and CGI, U.S. highlights importance of collaboration in addressing world’s biggest problems

October 01, 2012

The need to form partnerships and collaborate emerged as a common theme over the past week as top world leaders converged in New York for both the 67th General Assembly of the United Nations and the Clinton Global Initiative.

President Barack Obama spoke at the United Nations of “an interdependent world (where) all of us have a stake in working towards greater opportunity and security for our citizens.”

While the scope of his and others’ comments spanned a range of global challenges from food security to human trafficking; economic growth, job creation and support for entrepreneurs at all levels of the economic spectrum also featured prominently at both events. Efforts to spark economic growth for all people, Obama said during his U.N. address, “depend on a spirit of mutual interest and mutual respect.”

OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield offered a more specific look at the challenges and the value of building economic partnerships to benefit some of the world’s poorest people, when she spoke on the panel, Financing for Impact and Scale at CGI.

In her presentation, posted below, Littlefield described how OPIC partnered with Citi in 2006 to expand funding for microfinance.

“The problem at the time was that microfinance was not reaching particularly poor people,” said Littlefield. “We wanted to go deeper.”

As Littlefield described the challenge, OPIC has a strong development mission, money to fund microfinance lending as well as a comparatively high appetite for risk. But it does not have local offices in the communities around the world in need of microfinance lending, and it is not able to lend money in local currencies, which would made it more challenging for local microfinance institutions to repay their loans. Citi, on the other hand, has an extensive network of local offices as well as the ability to do business in local currencies.

In 2006 at CGI, OPIC agreed to provide a $100 million loan facility to Citi to help deepen funding for microfinance for the world’s poorest people. The commitment, which has since expanded to $350 million, has supported one million borrowers, 90% of whom were women.

One of the local microfinance lenders that the OPIC-Citi partnership supported was the Kenya Women’s Finance Institutions. In her presentation, Littlefield described how one local Kenyan woman borrowed funds from that group to build a school, which today has more than 500 students.

OPIC President and CEO, Elizabeth Littlefield, speaking at Financing for Impact and Scale at CGI.


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