The New York-based microfinance nonprofit Grameen America is getting a tech boost from Mastercard and Citi to enhance its U.S. micro-lending operations for low-income minority women, including a new prepaid card program to disburse micro loan funds to recipients.

Citi and Mastercard, which earlier this year also launched a new financial inclusion effort in Africa, will collaborate on new, cloud-based systems to streamline Grameen’s back-office processes and improve operations and efficiency, the companies said in a Feb. 21 press release.

The upgrade will enable Grameen to replace checks with Mastercard-branded prepaid cards issued by Citi to distribute micro loan funds to recipients, a Grameen spokesperson said. Prepaid cards will roll out first in a pilot in New York before expanding nationwide, she said.

Bloomberg News

Grameen serves tens of thousands of women living in poverty, and provides assistance to them in operating their own businesses with micro loans that average between $1,500 and $13,000, the spokesperson said.

“According to new data from the FDIC, more than 33 million households are either unbanked or underbanked, living without the ability to safely save and build financial security,” Bob Annibale, global director of community development and inclusive finance for Citi, in the release.

“Connecting people to the networks that power the modern world—like financial services—will unlock their economic potential and continue a cycle of equitable economic growth and poverty reduction,” said Shamina Singh, president of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.

Grameen America was founded in 2008 as a branch of the Grameen Foundation launched in 1997 by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus.

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