Loans that change lives

March 21, 2006

You know the one about not giving someone a fish so he can eat for a day but instead teaching him how to fish so he will have food forever? Hell, I’ve used that one many times on this log alone. Which is why I’m happy with new initiatives on a small scale that I see here and there. Initiatives where the Internet is used the way it should be used, as an information channel. To bring people together.

The first allows local, small scale entrepreneurs (read: farmers, owners of small shops etc..) to showcase their business and list what they need to improve (read: invest) in order to grow their business. Then, people in the Richer Countries, can pick any project they like and extend a personal loan. That’s treating people like partners and not like Poor People Needing a Handout. It’s working through existing microfinance institutions and lots of dedication and proper management, or so it seems. There might still be many things that can go wrong, it seems to me a hell of a lot better than those big NGO’s flying in white people to build classrooms.

It’s called Kiva, “Loans that change lives” and can be found at

I quote from Kiva’s site:

By choosing a business on our website and then lending money online to that enterprise, you can “sponsor a business” and help the world’s working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive monthly email updates that let you know about the progress being made by the small business you’ve sponsored. These updates include reports on loan repayment progress, photos of new capital equipment, narratives on business growth and standard of living improvements, and more. As loans are repaid, you will get your original loan money back.

The second initiative is geared more towards projects and foundations and operates world wide. It’s about donations, not loans but still in the microfinance sphere, accepting donations to “fund locally-run social and environmental projects from around the world”. Again, bringing the receiver and sender into direct contact using the Internet. You can check this one out at

And finally, a success story I read in the paper version of the East African, our excellent weekly paper on the whole region. It’s called “Selling sandals on the Net” and details how Ecosandals, a 10-year-old Kenian co-operative creates sandals with an African touch, out of car tires and leather, and sells over 1000 pairs every month to the US and Europe using the Internet.