July 22, 2009, NEW YORK — BRAC is leading a $15 million initiative to rebuild war-torn communities in West Africa, four organizations supporting the effort announced today.
The Soros Economic Development Fund, Open Society Initiative for West Africa, Omidyar Network, and Humanity United are funding this groundbreaking initiative to support families and prevent renewed conflict.
“This investment in the people of West Africa comes at a critical time,” said Stewart Paperin, president of the Soros Economic Development Fund. “With their countries emerging from devastating civil wars, this support gives people the tools to rebuild.”
BRAC, one of the world’s largest anti-poverty groups, is providing microfinance, health, and agricultural support in Sierra Leone and Liberia. It anticipates that over 500,000 people will benefit from these programs.
“In the face of overwhelming need, BRAC’s work has real potential to create opportunities for hundreds of thousands of families to stabilize their lives and build for the future,” said Matt Bannick, managing partner of Omidyar Network. “Our investment will help catalyze this economic and social impact.”
Since March, BRAC has opened 20 new microfinance branches in Sierra Leone and Liberia and will add 20 more by the end of the year. BRAC made its first loans in June. Over the next two years, it will provide financial services to tens of thousands of women, as well as agricultural supplies and training to small crop and livestock farmers. BRAC will also prepare four hundred community based health volunteers to provide ongoing essential healthcare and help fight deadly diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and cholera.
“People desperately need to earn a living,” said Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairperson of BRAC. “Despite the many challenges these countries face, Liberia and Sierra Leone are uniquely positioned to become models for successful development in West Africa. We are committed to providing training and resources so that the poor, especially women, can unleash their capabilities as entrepreneurs and improve their livelihoods.”
BRAC’s work in Sierra Leone and Liberia is being funded through a combination of grants and equity, and BRAC is negotiating additional debt capital to finance the loan portfolio. This two-year pilot program will help BRAC build a long-term sustainable strategy for integrated development in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Soros Economic Development Fund
The Soros Economic Development Fund (SEDF) is a nonprofit private foundation. It is part of the network of charitable foundations created by investor and philanthropist George Soros. Established in 1997, the fund’s mission is to alleviate poverty and community deterioration. The fund makes investments—in the form of equity, loans, guarantees and deposits—in selected banks, microfinance institutions, cooperatives and social enterprise projects worldwide. To learn more about Soros Economic Development Fund, please visit www.sedfny.org
Open Society Initiative for West Africa
The Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) promotes the ideals of an open society where functioning democracy, good governance, the rule of law, basic freedoms, and citizens’ empowerment prevail. OSIWA collaborates with advocacy groups, like-minded foundations, governments, and donors to create initiatives that enhance civil society. OSIWA’s program priorities include human rights, good governance, media and communication, and economic reform. To learn more about OSIWA, visit www.osiwa.org
Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. Established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, the organization invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic, social, and political change. To date, Omidyar Network has committed more than $290 million to for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual participation across multiple investment areas, including microfinance, property rights, government transparency, and social media. To learn more about Omidyar Network, please visit www.omidyar.com.
Humanity United is an independent philanthropy committed to building a world where mass atrocities and modern-day slavery are no longer possible. By helping to build permanent constituencies to end atrocities and slavery, supporting efforts that empower affected communities, and addressing the root causes of conflict and injustice, Humanity United seeks to help restore human dignity in places where it has been lost and to help create a lasting global peace. To learn more about Humanity United, please visit www.humanityunited.org
BRAC, the largest non-profit in the developing world, was launched in Bangladesh in 1972 and currently touches the lives of more than 110 million people through its programs addressing poverty including micro-loans, education, health services, self-employment opportunities and human rights education. BRAC’s vision is to improve the health, wealth and well being of millions of the poorest families primarily in Asia and Africa. BRAC has provided $5 billion in micro-loans to nearly seven million borrowers, mostly women, and created 8.5 million self-employment opportunities. BRAC’s 73,000 community health promoters have provided basic health services to more than 93 million people. To learn more about BRAC, please visit www.bracusa.org