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Swisscontact and The MasterCard Foundation Launch Partnership to Provide Market-Relevant Skills to Rural Youth in Tanzania and Uganda

$5.6 million partnership will train and link rural, disadvantaged youth to finance and economic opportunities

New York, NY, September 8, 2011 – The MasterCard Foundation and Swisscontact, a Swiss-based NGO, today announced a five-year, $5.6 million partnership that will introduce and expand Swisscontact’s signature Learning Group model in Uganda and Tanzania (U-LEARN project). The Learning Group Model is a proven, market-based non-formal training model that provides skills and entrepreneurial training to youth in subsistence agriculture economies with little formal education, and enables them to access jobs or start a business. Through this partnership, Swisscontact will introduce and expand the model in the Lake Victoria regions of Uganda and Tanzania and will enable 4,600 economically–disadvantaged youth to create opportunities for themselves.

“Swisscontact’s innovative model integrates education, employment and access to finance in a way that is tailored to the needs of youth,” said Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation. “U-LEARN will provide economically disadvantaged youth in Tanzania and Uganda with a holistic set of skills that will enable them to define their own futures.”

Young people form about 60 percent of the total active labor force in both Tanzania and Uganda. However, due to a lack of access to education and skills development, they have the highest unemployment rate and are unable to tap into economic opportunities. This is particularly true for youth in rural areas. U-LEARN will reach youth who are between 16 to 25 years of age and from families below or slightly above the poverty line in the Lake Victoria region.

As part of the U-LEARN project, 3,600 youth will receive hands-on technical skills training in vocations aligned with their aspirations and market opportunities. An internship component with master-craftsmen and businesses will ensure that youth gain practical on-the-job experience. The project also integrates financial literacy skills, with a specific focus on savings. In addition, it will also provide basic education for 1,000 girls and young mothers with little or no education, with special accommodations such as child care.

“Swisscontact is excited to contribute our international 50-year experience in youth workforce development,” said Peter Grueschow, Swisscontact’s Chairman of the Board of Trustees. “Our effective Learning Group model combines three of our innovative and piloted best practices approaches: youth skills development and life skills, financial literacy, and linkages to financial services institutions.”

The project is grounded in local ownership and partnerships. Swisscontact will train and engage local community members, government workers, teachers and master craftsmen to support sustainable youth workforce development and provide ongoing mentorship.

About Swisscontact

Swisscontact works in 25 countries to provide the poor with access to markets, information, financial services, and livelihood. Improved vocational training and workforce development programs, targeted support for small and medium-sized enterprises, and value-adding environmental projects provide our clients with a chance to change their lives. In 2008, American Friends of Swisscontact was launched to strengthen relationships with partners and supporters in the United States and Canada. For more information please visit www.swisscontact.org.

About The MasterCard Foundation

The MasterCard Foundation advances microfinance and youth learning to promote financial inclusion and prosperity. Through collaboration with committed partners in 48 countries, The MasterCard Foundation is helping people living in poverty to access opportunities to learn and prosper. An independent, private foundation based in Toronto, Canada, The MasterCard Foundation was established through the generosity of MasterCard Worldwide at the time of the company’s initial public offering in 2006. For more information, please visit www.mastercardfdn.org

Contacts:

Gisela Keller
Executive Director
American Friends of Swisscontact
Email: gisela.keller@swisscontact.us
Ph: 1-646 643 0390

Krista Pawley
V.P. Communications
The MasterCard Foundation
Email: kpawley@mastercardfdn.org
Ph: 1-647-990-1791