The Fund for Rural Prosperity aims to improve agricultural productivity by enabling farmers and others in rural Africa to access and use the banking system. Farmers need to be able to open savings accounts in order to create a reserve, buy affordable insurance to protect against unforeseen harm, and borrow at the right time in order to invest in agricultural improvement.

So far, financial service providers have largely ignored smallholder farmers and others living in rural Africa, either because of distances involved, low population densities, or the perception that poor people have little disposable income.

However, when smallholder farmers and others living in rural areas are able to access financial products or services specifically designed for their needs, they embrace and use them, giving financial service providers new clients who may remain with them for life and who ultimately can have a positive impact on the bottom line.

Meanwhile, obstacles of distance and low population density can be addressed with the smart use of emerging technologies. To accelerate the process, in 2014, The MasterCard Foundation launched a $50m challenge fund, The MasterCard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity, which runs two competitions per year over three years in 24 countries. One competition seeks innovative ideas for bringing affordable and appropriate financial products and services to rural Africa. The second supports the scaling up of these ideas once proven.

Nathan is supporting KPMG in the implementation of this programme, which aims to enable approximately one million financially excluded people access to financial services in rural and agricultural areas.

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