Hunger Hero and MasterCard CEO: ‘Business can be a force for good’

The World Food Programme has honoured Ajay Banga, President and CEO of MasterCard, with the “Hunger Hero Award”, an annual recognition of a partner who has made outstanding contributions towards Zero Hunger. Banga accepted the award during the World Food Programme’s annual dinner at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on 17 January.

CEO of Mastercard Ajay Banga (R) collects the Hunger Hero Award from WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin. Photo: Mastercard

Over the past five years under Banga’s leadership, MasterCard and the World Food Programme (WFP) have worked together on some important programmes, such as delivering electronic payments for refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. With the power of technology to unlock innovation in food assistance delivery, this partnership has brought fresh ideas to WFP operations while also raising much-needed funds.

Upon accepting the Hunger Hero Award, Ajay Banga told us more about MasterCard’s social philosophy and what partnering with WFP means to his organization.

1. How long have you been CEO of MasterCard? What achievements are you most proud of?

2. Do you think it is important for companies to support social causes?

When the private and public sector come together through partnership, both parties are able to leverage their strengths. At MasterCard we have global technology that can be used in new ways to innovate and include data and insights that can help inform and educate, and a whole organization of talented people who are motivated to come to work every day to help make a difference.

MasterCard helped WFP strengthen its cash-based transfers, which allow refugees to buy food with money transferred onto an e-card. Pictured: a WFP employee explains the system to a refugee family in Lebanon. Photo: WFP/Bryan Denton

3. Why does MasterCard get involved in social causes?

I believe we have a responsibility to drive success for our business and to do good in the countries, societies and environments in which we operate. As I look forward, one of the key goals for MasterCard continues to be the displacement of cash, which I believe is beneficial for society and the economy for so many reasons. By doing this we also include people in the formal economy and provide them with the tools to participate in the digital economy, showing that business can do well and be a force for good in society.

WFP’s electronic voucher programme in Lebanon, in partnership with MasterCard, allows Syrian refugees to meet their food needs and helps boost the local economy. Photo: WFP/Dina El Kassaby

4. There are a lot of worthy causes that need support. What attracted MasterCard to the goal of Zero Hunger and to the World Food Programme?

Together with WFP, we are looking to build the technology and activate our partner network so we don’t just fill people’s short-term need to feed themselves, but also work towards the longer term goal of including them in society, giving them dignity and freedom from prejudice.

5. What other causes does MasterCard support?

A great example of this is the platform we have just launched in East Africa called 2KUZE, which means “let’s grow together” in Swahili. Through this new platform we have connected smallholder farmers, agents and banks, enabling farmers to buy, sell and receive payments for agricultural goods through their phones. The platform takes an existing problem and delivers a simple solution that brings security and mobile commerce to farmers in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania — a smart solution for Africa built in our African laboratories.

Photo: WFP/Dina El Kassaby

6. What would you say to someone who believes that the goals of the private sector are not compatible with those of humanitarian organizations?

We are already seeing the benefits of this way of thinking; one of them is attracting and retaining great talent. We know that the next generation is much more socially aware and socially minded than the generation before, and how we behave in business is also going to impact our reputation and the people we attract. Humanitarian organizations have an important job to do. My business is different but what is important is that there are ways we can leverage private and public for the development of society — and that has to be a good thing.

7. WFP presents the Hunger Hero Award at its annual dinner in Davos to show appreciation to partners who have shown significant commitment to the fight to end world hunger. What does receiving this year’s award mean to you?

WFP would like to thank Ajay Banga and MasterCard for their commitment toward Zero Hunger.

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme