Now Africa turns to microsaving

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Scott Jagow: Today’s a national holiday in South Africa. It’s Women’s Day. Women are a big part of Africa’s informal economy. They make up 80 percent of subsistence farmers and food traders, but women generally don’t have a place to put what little money they earn. One group hopes to change that by opening a women’s bank. Gretchen Wilson reports from Johannesburg.

Gretchen Wilson:
The Pan-African Women’s Bank won’t be a slick corporate firm. It’ll be more like a co-op, devoted to women who’ve never had access to formal banking services.

Sindy Dastile: Our women, they don’t have the criteria that the big banks are looking at. Like, they don’t even have the pay slip.

That’s Sindy Dastile, a microfinance specialist who hopes to launch the bank by 2010. She says it’ll empower women by providing microloans and teaching them about business.

But a more basic need is a bank where uneducated, rural women feel safe storing their money, even as little as $2 a month.

Dastile: Because saving is the answer to poverty.

Since some customers will be illiterate, founders hope to use photos and thumbprint-recognition technology instead of a lot of complicated forms.

In the next three years, their goal is to raise at least $2 million dollars in private capital.

In Johannesburg, I’m Gretchen Wilson for Marketplace.

All reporting by Gretchen L. Wilson, © 2007

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