Three United Nations agencies are spending a lot of time and money to bring financial services to poor people in Africa. The agencies want to help poor become less dependent on aid. But some people are wondering whether the UN efforts can lead to changes.
The agencies want financial services, such as credit, savings and insurance, made available to everyone. That includes poor people in Africa's rural areas. Some people there live on only two dollars a day.
Ertharin Cousin works for the World Food Program. She says the WFP is hoping to create jobs in agriculture that continue after the agency ends its involvement. The two other UN agencies are the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.
Representatives of all three agencies were recently in Ethiopia. The country is home to more than 84 million people. But more than 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas. The FAO gives seeds and fertilizer to farmers. Local groups then buy what the farmers have grown with money that comes indirectly from the International Fund for Agricultural Development. And the World Food Program provides money to schools so they can buy locally-grown food to serve their students.
Another part of the program teaches financial literacy. It urges those living on a few dollars a day to use part of that money not for daily needs but to save or invest. Queen Maxima is the UN's Special Advocate for Financial Inclusion. She says knowing how start saving money is important for future investments. Ethiopia does not have a strong financial services industry. Only eight percent of the population saves money in a bank.
For VOA Learning English, I'm Carolyn Presutti.