The MasterCard Foundation Expands Savings Services for the Poor

    Programs with Aga Khan Foundation Canada and CARE Canada to benefit an
estimated 900,000 people in Tajikistan and Rwanda

    TORONTO, Feb. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The MasterCard Foundation has
announced two new programs to expand savings initiatives in Tajikistan and
Rwanda with Aga Khan Foundation Canada and CARE Canada. With a total
investment of $9 million, these programs will strengthen and create
innovations within the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) model,
benefiting approximately 900,000 people in remote communities, many of whom
live on less than $2 a day.

    VSLAs are self-managed savings groups that receive no external funding.
The accumulated savings within each group is made available in small loans to
members. Each group sets its own rules about membership, savings and loans.
The model, pioneered by CARE in 1991 in West Africa and adapted over the
years, has proven to be a cost-effective means to ensure poor populations have
access to appropriate financial services.

    "The MasterCard Foundation aims to help the poor, especially those in
isolated places, save money and build assets," said Reeta Roy, President and
CEO of The MasterCard Foundation. "Working with leaders like Aga Khan
Foundation Canada and CARE, our programs will create economic opportunities
for people to improve their own lives."

    Over the next five years, Aga Khan Foundation Canada will adapt and
introduce VSLAs to the mountainous regions of Tajikistan, benefitting more
than 350,000 people.  Based on local needs, this $5 million program - $4
million from The MasterCard Foundation and $1 million from Aga Khan Foundation
Canada - will help villagers identify and develop viable businesses and
connect them to markets.

    "Working with The MasterCard Foundation, we will offer poor rural
households new ways to manage their cash and invest in income-generating
activities," said Khalil Z. Shariff, CEO of Aga Khan Foundation Canada.  "This
initiative will be an important aspect of our long-term, holistic effort in
Tajikistan and will inform our plans to introduce VSLAs across ten other
developing countries."

    Concurrently, over the next three years, CARE will found new VSLAs in
Rwanda, where 37 percent of the population is too poor to meet even their
basic nutritional needs. This $4 million program - $2 million from The
MasterCard Foundation and $2 million from the Canadian International
Development Agency - will allow some 540,000 people to build sustainable
livelihoods with access to financial resources they never had before.  The
program will test several innovations to enhance CARE's already successful
VSLA model. For example, CARE will help banks and microfinance institutions to
customize their products and services to serve VSLA groups who need more
diverse products and are ready for larger loans.

    "Throughout Africa, VSLAs have proven their ability to lift people out of
poverty," said Kevin McCort, President and CEO of CARE Canada. "With The
MasterCard Foundation's support, thousands will have opportunities they never
had before and Rwanda will take another step toward its goal of reducing
extreme poverty by 17 percent by the year 2012."

    Both programs will experiment with a variety of approaches to ensure high
quality, cost-effective replication. The programs will be joined with other
savings-led initiatives funded by international donors to compare learnings
about sustainable ways to provide financial services to the remote poor.

    About The MasterCard Foundation
    The MasterCard Foundation is an independent, private foundation based in
Toronto, Canada. It was established through the generosity of MasterCard
Worldwide customer financial institutions at the time of the company's initial
public offering in 2006. The Foundation has more than $1 billion in assets.
Its vision is to make the economy work for everybody by advancing effective
and innovative programs in the areas of microfinance and youth education. For
more information, go to

    About CARE Canada
    For more than 60 years, CARE Canada has worked on the front lines,
fighting poverty and defending dignity throughout the developing world.
Working with the world's neediest people, we provide long-term development and
economic empowerment to communities facing challenges like HIV and AIDS,
poverty, gender inequality, environmental degradation, natural disasters and
conflict. They place a special focus on working alongside vulnerable women
because, equipped with the proper resources, women have the power to help
whole families and communities escape poverty. For more information, go to

    Aga Khan Foundation Canada is a nonprofit international and
non-denominational agency that supports social development programs in Asia
and Africa. As a member of the worldwide Aga Khan Development Network, the
Foundation works to address the root causes of poverty: finding and sharing
effective and lasting solutions that help improve the quality of life for poor
communities. Established in 1980, the Foundation has built a reputation in
Canada as an effective development organization that acts as a catalyst for
increasing awareness and understanding of key global issues. For more
information, go to


For further information:

For further information: Jennifer Kushlis, +1-202-585-2828,, for The MasterCard Foundation; Kieran Green of
CARE Canada, +1-613-228-5678,; Laurie Peters of Aga Khan
Foundation Canada, +1-613-237-2532 X 120, Web Site:              

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