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$500 million to help world's poor save money

 It's described as the largest philanthropic gift ever made aimed at helping the poor  save money and provide access to financial services. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's $500 million pledge was announced at a Seattle gathering attended by finance and banking leaders representing 38 nations.

Melinda Gates announced the gift on the opening day of the foundation-sponsored Global Savings Forum. The money will grow the foundation's work in branchless banking and 'mobile money,' among other iniatives. 

In a statement, Gates notes:

The pledge will let millions of people who live on $2 or less a day use their mobile phones or visit a local store to deposit money.

Gates spoke in Tuesday's morning session, as reported by Humanosphere blogger Tom Paulson:

“The poor don’t have a safe or efficient means for saving,” Gates said...Lack of savings keeps the poor at risk of any costly emergency, she says, or simple theft.

The grants will help small account holders, a business line largely seen as unprofitable by bankers. According to Bloomberg:

The project, with partners including BRAC Bank Ltd. in Bangladesh and Vodacom Tanzania Ltd., is intended to build on the success of Safaricom Ltd.’s M-PESA mobile money system in Kenya, foundation officials said. That service began in 2007 and had more than 13 million subscribers at the end of September.