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