Focus on OPIC Impact Award Winners: Global Communities
Ghada El Sheikh is a small scale farmer and mother of five young children in the town of Baalbek in Lebanon who used a loan from Global Communities to purchase fertilizer and irrigation equipment to help her generate more income for her family, as well as apple seedlings to diversify her crops.
Just like roads, power plants and other physical infrastructure are essential to the success of a community, so too is financial infrastructure. If you want to promote widespread opportunity, economic growth and job creation, you have to give people the tools to enable them to save for the future, fund increased agricultural production, and start and expand small businesses.
Financial inclusion is a major challenge throughout the developing world, where millions of people don’t even have a formal bank account and have no way of obtaining a bank loan. This challenge is also a major focus of OPIC, which partners with financial institutions around the world to support lending to the entrepreneurs, small farms and small businesses that are such a key part of the local economy.
At its recent Impact Awards recognizing excellence in development, OPIC presented the Access to Finance Award to Global Communities, a nonprofit that works closely with local communities throughout much of the developing world to provide financing and other support to help improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people.
In 2007 OPIC committed $20 million to Global Communities’ Vitas s.a.l. facility to support microfinance lending in Lebanon through local banks. The project has been a resounding success on many fronts. Over the seven-year life of the facility, OPIC’s financing was used to make more than 36,000 loans totaling almost $70 million and supporting creation of tens of thousands of jobs.
The average loan size was under $2,000 and the default rate was less than one percent, underscoring both how small amounts can make a big difference in people’s lives, and how even the lowest income people with no track record of borrowing, can be good credit risks.
Ziad Halaby, General Manager of the Global Communities’ Vitas facility in Lebanon, said the partnership with OPIC was particularly valuable in a time of political and economic uncertainty in Lebanon:
Due to the successful track record of Global Communities Vitas s.a.l., Global Communities and OPIC entered and signed a second facility with Global Communities in Lebanon in 2014 to continue to support access to credit end economic growth and stability, which is critical to fostering political stability.