Monday 4th March

The Geographical Society were treated to another great meeting, as Edward Fox, CEO of Microfinance charity Opportunity International UK, came and gave a talk on the workings of the charity. From the outset he explained what microfinance was. This was the handing out of small loans, savings and insurance to those who might otherwise not have the ability to obtain these services due to their current economic standing. He explained how in fact there was a narrow line between the charity being classified as a charity rather than a bank. Both bankers and social workers work in tandem at Opportunity International. Mr Fox went on to explain further how women are the predominant beneficiaries of the loans (across the world 84% of loans are given out to women) as they are proven to be the most likely to put their earnings to good effect, such as a child’s education which in turn can further economic and social development. Towards the conclusion of the talk Mr Fox outlined examples of how schemes have been set up for Opportunity International have been used, such as with credit cards with finger print ID installed in them or a scheme where these cards can be used in local shops (similar to as we have the chip and pin system). The final goal however of Opportunity International UK is to become sustainable, thus without the need for people to donate or raise funds for the charity. Instead the hopes that in the future it can use the capital it has as well as interest rates to fund its projects, loans, and in essence its bank.

The questions and answer session was highly profitable for all involved with many boys asking numerous interesting questions, some of which Mr Fox had to stop to think about. His knowledge of areas which Opportunity International UK were involved in was vast and very interesting, giving the students a full understanding of the developing industry of microfinance.

Finn Nugent (SAL)