Business Week has an article on Microfinance Draws Mega Players on how investment banks are getting into microfinance. I must admit that while I certainly am happy if the market can get involved in making microfinance aid development I think it might be better suited to non-profit, foundations and charities. I am happy to continue to fund organizations like Trickle Up to help people help themselves.
Kiva is another interesting organization that lets you loan directly to an entrepreneur of your choice. If fact, I have just placed $350 in loans to 5 business entrepreneurs (in Kenya, Mexico, Cameroon and Azerbaijan) – and a $50 donation to Kiva. Kiva provides loans through partners (operating in the countries) to the entrepreneurs. Those partners do charge the entrepreneurs interest (to fund the operations of the lending partner). Kiva pays the principle back to you but does not pay interest. And if the entrepreneur defaults then you do not get your interest paid back (in other words you lose the money you loaned). I plan to just recycle repaid loans to other entrepreneurs.
Related: Microfinance article from the New Yorker – Kiva: Microfinance Loans (posted on Christmas day 2006) – helping people succeed economically
The Kiva web site does a great job of using the internet to create a direct connection between those with money to lend and those in need of money to grow a business. Given how poorly banks treat rich customers in the USA I really can’t see them creating a win win relationship with the entrepreneurs. I can’t see subjecting entrepreneur in places like Kenya, Uganda, India, Mexico with the type of service I have to deal with from Discover Card (Morgan Stanley just spun off their Discover Card subsidiary today). Entrepreneurs deserve much better, and I am happy to help without any the typical customer hostility of financial institutions in the USA. In fact if Morgan Stanley or Discover respond to this blog post and agree to send the money they said they would send (that I still have not received a month later now – they did send me a “bill” [with a balance they owe me instead of me owing them so it is not really a bill] for the account they said didn’t exist which was the reason they claimed that they could not pay the cash back bonus they promised) – this is the money left over since they reversed the fraudulent charges and the money they never paid on the “cash back bonus” they promised, but now say they will not pay, I will loan that money and an equal amount from me to Kiva entrepreneurs.