Innovation That Matters

Kiva: p2p micro lending

Nonprofit & Social Cause

A while ago, Springwise featured Zopa, an online platform that matches creditworthy borrowers with individuals who’ll lend money to them, thereby taking banks and other financial institutions out of the equation. Make way for a similar initiative that focuses solely on providing (charitable) microloans to entrepreneurs in developing countries – U.S. based Kiva. In their own words: “Kiva provides a new, sponsor a business option for individuals to connect with small enterprises in developing countries through flexible loans.” Anyone with internet access and a credit card can now lend money directly to a farmer in Uganda who needs to buy livestock, or a refugee in Gaza hoping to set up a telephone repair shop. Loans requested by the entrepreneurs average USD 500. The average lender loans between USD 25 and 100, making payment via Paypal, and does not receive interest over the loan. Compared to simply donating money, Kiva’s p2p model appears far more sustainable – both for borrowers and lenders. As founder Matthew Flannery explains: “When you loan to someone and get paid back, you get proof that a business has succeeded — and you are more likely to loan again.” Desktop philanthropists can track ‘their’ entrepreneur’s progress via his or her journal, which includes information about the loan amount, how much has been repaid, and of course how the business is evolving thanks to the loan. Although the microfinance industry has grown 25-30% annually over the last five years, the demand for microcredit services among the world’s poorest is still largely unmet. Combined with the news that the number of lenders to Kiva has exceeded the number of people they can find to borrow the cash, this sounds like an excellent growth market. If not for profit, then surely for good karma!


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