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Entrepreneurial Inspiration – Opportunity International and microfinancing

By Samantha Garner | August 4, 2012

When entrepreneurs in developing countries need to start or expand businesses, but either don’t need or can’t afford a large loan, where do they go?  Opportunity International is an organization that helps entrepreneurs in developing countries. They do this by providing small business loans, insurance, training and savings to clients in over 20 countries. Opportunity works with a mix of fundraising organizations, individuals, corporations, foundations and governments all over the world to build funds for these entrepreneurs. With this funding, entrepreneurs in developing countries can provide for their families and strengthen their communities.

The organization was founded in 1971 by Al Whittaker, former president of Bristol Myers International Corporation in America, and Australian entrepreneur David Bussau. It was one of the first nonprofit organizations to see how powerful microfinance loans can be to entrepreneurs in developing countries who can’t afford or don’t need a traditional large loan to get started. Thanks to microfinance, entrepreneurs in developing countries can do things they may not have been otherwise able to do – start a school, a sewing business or a small grocery store, for example.

In addition to providing microloans, Opportunity International offers microinsurance. This provides entrepreneurs with crop, life and health insurance to protect their livelihood against unexpected hazards. They’ve also built 15 regulated microfinance institutions, including seven banks. They have also used technological advances to allow ATMs, point-of-sale devices and mobile banks to operate in remote areas where residents are typically held back by reduced literacy or lack of formal ID.

As of December 31, 2010, Opportunity International had given out 2.8 million active loans (93% to female entrepreneurs), created 1.1 million savings accounts, and trained 2.5 million clients in business skills. The average first loan is in the amount of $178, and the loan repayment rate is 95%. Opportunity believes in developing staff within the countries it serves, and 99% of its employees are nationals of the countries where they work.

Loans from Opportunity can be as low as $60, but according to their website, “each loan impacts the lives of not just each client, but the lives of an average of five family members or employees.”

For more information about microfinance and the benefit it can have to entrepreneurs in developing countries, check out  So what is microfinance, anyway?

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