Kiva Opens Up Lending to the US


Kiva rocked the microfinance world today by announcing on Good Morning America this morning (RyanC, thanks for the heads up on Twitter) that they have now opened up loans to the US as well.  There has been quite the press on this issue this morning already, I’m sure it will get more attention as the day goes on.  There have been positive and negative comments surrounding this announcement.  Some people like the fact that microfinance is making a bigger push here in the US, while others think that the focus should be more on third world countries where capital is harder to raise.
Here are some of the recent comments this morning from people here in Seattle on the SeaMo Team on Kiva:

“While I do not necessarily agree with lending to US entrepreneurs (although many such people in the US face redlining/discriminatory practices when attempting to borrow), none of us is required to lend to these people and can continue to lend outside the US if that is our preference. I suggest that we refrain from inferring that people are rich just because they live here and refrain from inflammatory statements.”

“Kiva has started to lend to US entrepreneurs in 2009. These US entrepreneurs might have more money than most Kiva lenders do. Why don’t these US entrepreneurs use their own savings or get a loan from the bank to start their businesses. Why US entrepreneurs shift the risks to Kiva lenders and getting interest free loans from Kiva lenders for their personal benefits? The altruistic meaning of helping the poor is lost. If lending to US entrepreneurs is for business reasons, then should require these rich US entrepreneurs to pay interest and share a percentage of the interest return to Kiva lender so both, Kiva lenders, and US entrepreneurs or First World entrepreneurs can benefit from this. To sum it up in one sentence, Kiva Lenders should ask to demand interest payment from these First World Rich Borrowers who might have higher networth than their Kiva lenders. Please message and spread the words if you agree.”

“I agree with ####. I am also disappointed in Kiva’s decision. Sources for funding businesses in the US are vastly more available than in undeveloped countries. Kiva is diverting financial assistance from those who need it most and have the least access to it. Bad idea, in my opinion.”

“Of course is it for altruistic reasons #####. But did you know that Kiva is starting to lend to US entrepreneurs who are looking for interest free money to start their businesses? These US entrepreneurs might have more money than most of us but still asking for free loans on Kiva rather than using their own saving or going to the banks. The meaning of helping the poor is lose and there are many people lending to these US entrepreneurs for free or no knowthing that they won’t get interest. Kiva should at least require interest payment from these rich borrowers and share some percentage of the interest to the lenders.”

“I do not agree with you. We are in this, not for the money, but out of altruistic reasons. Since the money is disbursed immediately and is not earning interest, out of what funds do you think Kiva should pay us interest? Any funds should go to finding more people in need and training field staff.”

“I think Kiva should consider giving lenders some interest payment for doing good and lending to there people. what do you guys/gals think?”

“I just went and checked out the US listings on Kiva (see my note below for my initial reaction). Now I am even more outraged after reading the following:
For 15 years, Mark worked in architecture offices as a graphic designer, producing websites and scale images of architecture projects. He liked the work, but the jobs were inconsistent and had long dry spells that were difficult to manage. Mark knew that he could do it better as his own boss, so in late 2008 he decided to start his company, Urban Digital.
Urban Digital specializes in marketing and visual tools for builders and architect engineers. With a degree in architecture and many years of experience, Mark is an expert at producing technical images, websites, marketing kiosks and other materials that architects need. But getting started is hard, especially given the high upfront cost of all the hardware and technical software he needs to complete the projects he is pitching to clients. With a $7,000 loan from Opportunity Fund, Mark will be able to make these purchases and truly get his business up to speed.
Mark is saving money right now by running the business out of his home, but his goal is to bring in enough clients that he can hire employees and establish a real office.
Excuse my French here, but holy crap, what are you thinking and what have you done?? THIS guy is in need of $7000 more than, say 7 truly destitute families in Africa????
Yes I can still choose to loan to any country I want, but the OTHER folks who contribute to the US borrowers are taking (perhaps literally) food from the mouths of babes to give it to the rich. THIS guy has a MILLION other avenues to get where he wants; a family in Africa is desperate.
I am totally ASHAMED of Kiva’s decision on this matter and outraged you didn’t think it through farther. I urge you to ABANDON this program immediately.”

“Hi fellow Seattleites,

Kiva announced today on Good Morning America, BBC, NPR and other major media outlets that it will be facilitating loans to US entrepreneurs. The first set of loans are now available on the site, so it is a great time to invite additional friends and family to the site, or to use up those repaid loan funds.Thanks to everybody for helping our team to reach $25,000 in loans. Let’s see if we can catch the Atlanta lending team, which has made almost $50,000 in loans. We can do it!
Seattle Team Captain”

Personally, I like this idea that Kiva had.  People are not forced to donate to the US companies.  If you are opposed to giving to a US borrower, then don’t.  You can always choose one of the many thrid world countries that Kiva allows lenders to donate to.  I think that by opening Kiva up to the US,  more first time lenders will be attracted to the cause.  Many people do not know what is going on in different countries, and are hestitant to donate to causes they don’t know about.  By having microfinance be local,  it allows lenders to donate to borrowers who are closer to their community.

Could just be my outlook on things, anybody else have any thoughts?  Please share.

About Jerry Ostradicky

I work in Advertising Operations at Zillow, but LOVE microfinance. I'm always interested in startups, especially non-profits, reach out to me if you're working on anything cool!
  • I agree with the author. This is an option. Nobody is forcing lending to the U.S. I’m of the opinion that if you have taken the time to get to know microfinance and have considered becoming a lendor, then you are more than likely a thoughtful person that is capable of rational decision-making. We should not look at a loan to a U.S. client as a missed opportunity for someone in a less developed country. This is not a clear link and pure conjecture at this stage in the game. Any market opening in the field in my opinion is a good thing.

  • ACCION USA where I am the CEO is one of Kiva’s partners. None of you who thinks this a bad idea is likely to see me as an “objective” voice. But there are some facts here that should be known: 1. Our loans are not interest free. 2. They are not made to those with
    access to the financial mainstream. They are made to the businesses on +Main Street so often mentioned these days – usually followed by the fact that banks no longer lend to them. The overwhelming majority of AUSA’s clients (over 15 years of lending in the US) may have a bank account but they don’t have access to capital. Banks don’t lend to home-based businesses – we do and those businesses provide communities with day care services so people can go to work, and women an opportunity to take care of themselves and their families by owning a sewing machine or making tamales. Banks don’t lend to start-ups – they require 3 years of experience (read with profit .) We do. Banks don’t lend to those who have run a business successfully but haven’t established a credit score in the US. But we do. Banks don’t lend to women who can’t establish an independent credit score because they don’t have a lease or electric or phone company bill in their own names to prove they are able to pay.

    These facts don’t argue against an equally impactful set of facts that there are millions of people around the globe who are starving. There are. But I hope they at least add some food for thought about just how easy it is for immigrants and minorities, women, to get their business capital needs met by US Banks and other Financial Services.