The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a 500 million dollar (£315 million) pledge to support projects that encourage poor people around the world to save money.
The pledge Melinda Gates announced at a global savings forum in Seattle will more than double what the foundation has previously committed to help the poor make financial plans for the future – to save for everything from fertiliser to school fees and uniforms.
“They talk eloquently about how savings can transform their lives,” Ms Gates said about the female farmers and small business owners in Africa, Latin America and Asia she has talked to about financial services.
“Saving gives them the ability to marshal their resources,” she added.
As part of the 500 million dollar pledge, Ms Gates announced a package of six new grants totalling 40 million dollars (£25 million). The grants will expand the foundation’s work involving branchless banking and mobile money, and will pay for more research on how people use formal and informal financial tools.
Ms Gates said financial services for the poor are an unusual challenge because it’s not just about money. “It’s not a resource gap. It’s an idea gap,” she said.
Transferring money through cell phones, banking kiosks at public markets and mobile branches driven from one village in the form of a truck are among the new ways people around the world are banking without having to enter an actual bank building.
“The change that we’ve seen in this field over the past three years is astounding,” Ms Gates said.
The Gates Foundation, the world’s largest charitable foundation, has brought about 200 bankers, government officials, regulators, telecommunications companies and community organisers from 38 countries to Seattle this week to talk about working together to benefit the poor.
The meeting comes a few days after global leaders meeting in Seoul, South Korea, added financial inclusion to their development priorities.