WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion today announced a $6.1 million partnership with The MasterCard Foundation to launch the Accion Africa Board Fellowship program. Targeted at corporate board members and CEOs, the Fellowship program is designed to promote peer-to-peer learning on governance and risk management practices at financial institutions that serve low-income clients in sub-Saharan Africa.
Strong governance is widely recognized as critical to the growth and sustainability of microfinance institutions across sub-Saharan Africa, among the fastest-growing regions in the world. Through an elite network of peers, this first-of-its-kind program will address challenges such as navigating competitive markets, advancing social performance, managing both internal and external risks, and creating accountability between board and management. Addressing these challenges will promote the growth, capacity and sustainability of microfinance institutions in a region with more than 6.6 million microfinance clients.
"Accion's vision is to build a financially inclusive world where everyone has access to the financial tools that can improve their lives—and strong governance at microfinance institutions is critical to making that vision a reality," said Michael Schlein, President and CEO of Accion. "Our collaboration with The MasterCard Foundation will help expand access to financial services for low-income individuals, households and small businesses in sub-Saharan Africa by enabling leaders to more effectively serve their clients."
The inaugural class of fellows will be launched in the spring of 2015. Multi-day seminars for microfinance leaders anchor the Fellowship, which takes place over nine months. At the conclusion of the program, fellows stay connected as alumni, providing a support network of like-minded leaders confronting similar challenges. Fellows also receive automatic acceptance into the Harvard Business School-Accion Program on Strategic Leadership in Inclusive Finance.
"This project aligns with one of our core values, that of cultivating leadership on the continent," said Ann Miles, Director of Financial Inclusion at The MasterCard Foundation. "It will also serve to scale access to financial products and services for the most economically disadvantaged. Clients need to trust that the financial organizations they do business with are well-managed and well-governed. This initiative can help build that trust by strengthening the skills sets of board members and CEOs who oversee Africa's microfinance institutions."
"Convening the right mix of board members and CEOs in a dynamic, peer-learning environment will improve microfinance leaders' ability to guide the overall strategic mission and operations of their institutions," said Deborah Drake, Vice President at the Center for Financial Inclusion and head of the new program. "Ultimately, this leadership program will ensure more sustainable institutions, able to reach more clients with high-quality financial services."
The Africa Board Fellowship program is also supported by FMO and is being implemented in partnership with Calmeadow.
About the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion
The Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion (CFI) is an action-oriented think tank working toward full global financial inclusion. Constructing a financial inclusion sector that reaches everyone with quality services will require the combined efforts of many actors. CFI contributes to full inclusion by collaborating with sector participants to tackle challenges beyond the scope of any one actor, using tools that include research, convening, capacity building, and communications. To learn more about CFI, visit www.centerforfinancialinclusion.org
About The MasterCard Foundation
The MasterCard Foundation is an independent, global organization based in Toronto, Canada, with over $9 billion in assets. Through collaboration with partner organizations in 49 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. For more information on the Foundation, please visit www.mastercardfdn.org.
SOURCE Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion