Thank you very much. I appreciate this opportunity, no pun intended.
Good afternoon. My name is Dale Patterson. I'm a member of the board of directors of Opportunity International Canada. I'm pleased to be joined by my colleague Doris Olafsen, our executive vice-president.
We welcome the opportunity to present our views on the role of the private sector in achieving Canada's international development interests. We commend the Canadian government for being committed to delivering international assistance that is efficient, focused, and accountable, and for focusing on sustainable economic growth strategies that resonate with our global mandate.
Opportunity International was founded in 1971. It is a leading microfinance network focused on establishing banks to provide access to savings and credit to the poor. We are currently operating in 20 countries.
Our mission is to provide scalable, sustainable microfinance services, including loans, savings, training, insurance, and other financial services, to reach the lowest echelon of the economically active, with a focus on increasing their income, improving food security and access to education, and creating jobs.
Opportunity International currently owns 15 formal financial institutions, including seven banks. It developed the first wholly owned microinsurance company, MicroEnsure. The rest of Opportunity's implementing members are non-governmental not-for-profit organizations. Opportunity International Canada is one of five support partners, along with Australia, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. The support partners' primary role is to raise funds for, and awareness of, opportunity to invest in Opportunity microfinance initiatives.
Opportunity International Canada is a microfinance organization founded and established in 1997 by David Stiller, a Canadian businessman and former chair of a Canadian relief organization. Stiller was disillusioned with the inability of relief work to make poor people less poor and, together with a group of like-minded people, began to explore the idea of creating a Canadian affiliate of Opportunity International. In 1998, Opportunity International Canada received its official status as a Canadian registered charitable organization.
Since 1998, Opportunity Canada has supported work in five countries in Africa—Mozambique, Ghana, Malawi, Uganda, and Rwanda—and six in Latin America—Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Peru.
Opportunity Canada is governed by a Canadian board of directors, which currently numbers eight individuals. The current president and CEO, who also serves as chairman for Opportunity Canada’s board of directors and sits on the global Opportunity International board, was appointed in mid-2011.
Opportunity Canada also has more than 120 ambassadors, known as the Governors Council, who serve as the public face of Opportunity International in communities across Canada. Donors and volunteers, this group invests their time, lends their name, and are spokespeople for helping to raise funds and awareness across Canada.
Since 1998, Opportunity Canada has raised $34 million in donations and grants, with a total of $23 million raised since 2006. CIDA has provided support to Opportunity Canada for over 10 years and since 1999 has disbursed approximately $2.7 million to leverage Opportunity Canada's programming. Of Opportunity Canada's 2011 revenues of $5.5 million, CIDA accounted for 4%, which is $212,000.
In 2011 Opportunity Canada was pleased to receive a three-year $2.5 million CIDA commitment for capacity-building that will positively impact 300,000 people in Ghana and Mozambique. The CIDA match of one-to-one will attract one-to-two in private funding.
Opportunity has a strong presence in Latin America and is pleased that as of January 2012, the Superintendent of Finance of Colombia granted Opportunity Canada a constitutional licence to establish a formal financial institution. Opportunity Canada was a catalyst in moving this venture forward and is vested as a minority shareholder, having raised $2 million of the $10 million in capital needed to establish this formal financial institution.
Opportunity Canada, with a staff of 13 FTEs, relies on an actively engaged volunteer base that spans the spectrum across the country, from elementary schools to universities, from the small business owner to a large franchise, from a corporate boardroom to public and private foundations. Individuals and community groups such as Rotary have partnered with Opportunity to spread the word, fundraise, and partner with our global programs.
Opportunity International, a faith-based organization, serves all people regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or gender. It has committed to a triple bottom line.
The first is large-scale outreach, which is defined as “reaching the greatest possible number of the economically marginalized in both urban and rural areas”.
The second is financial profitability and sustainability, providing highly valued, quality financial services to clients that ensure an appropriate return to shareholders.
The third is transformational client impact, providing to those living in poverty the opportunities to improve their lives economically, socially, and spiritually.
Transformation reflects Opportunity's interest in changing the lives of clients using the vehicle of financial services. Opportunity's signature services include loans, savings, and insurance, with a focus on training. Through training and business growth, clients are transformed. Opportunity is currently serving two and a half million savings and loan clients, and our repayment rates stand at 95%, with 89% of our clients being women.
Opportunity has close to a million savings accounts, and the average client has $113 on deposit. In 2008, Opportunity made a strategic decision to significantly increase banking services in the rural areas of all the African countries in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The MasterCard Foundation. With the foundations' partnership commitment, Opportunity was able to develop a program to provide 1.4 million people with access to savings accounts, including 950,000 in rural areas, and loans for more than 90,000 smallholder farmers in the four countries of Malawi, Uganda, Ghana, and Rwanda, by 2014.
Opportunity's strategies to expand the number of banking outlets include deploying a range of cost-effective delivery channels, including satellite branches, kiosks, mobile vans, ATMs, and point-of-sale devices. Opportunity's unique business model is focused on integrated service and holistic transformation, in comparison to other microfinance providers that prefer financial services.
Opportunity is innovative. It has used technology and created solutions to improve the well-being of clients. Just as the range of services has been transformed, so too has the landscape of funders and of service providers. Opportunity is one of the leading Canadian organizations focused only on the core business of microfinance. In recent years, microfinance has matured into an industry funded by government, major donors, investment capital, private donations from individuals and corporations, and peer-to-peer lending, as well as by foundation grants, investments, and guarantees.
In addition to traditional microfinance institutions, other providers have also entered this market, including mainstream commercial banks. We commend Canadian parliamentarians for recognizing the immense potential of microfinance as a strategy to support the very poor. We are encouraged that in furthering its goal of growing small business, CIDA has committed to supporting activities that will strengthen and increase the availability of financial institutional products and services, including microfinance, which will result in greater job creation for the poor.
With the specific emphasis on women, microfinance is a strategic solution helping to end global poverty. We would recommend that the Canadian government continue with the strong commitment to microfinance and would suggest that additional funding be allocated for microfinance targeted at the very poor. Catalytic and highly-producing partnerships are critical to moving the microfinance agenda forward.
To quote one of our major partners, Reeta Roy, CEO of The MasterCard Foundation,
Opportunity International focuses on developing cost-effective and sustainable solutions that can unlock that potential to create jobs, generate profits, provide for families, and ultimately overcome poverty. That strong and core belief in the power of the entrepreneurial poor is one of the reasons we at The MasterCard Foundation are proud to partner with Opportunity as we work together to promote financial inclusion and prosperity.
Mr. Chair, we at Opportunity International look forward to continuing our partnership with the Government of Canada to ensure the development, implementation, and growth of sound public policy objectives. I'll be happy to answer questions when we have concluded.