Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kiva now open to entrepreneurs in the USA



It has been a very busy day for Kiva today. First a TV segment on ABC’s Good Morning America! this morning featuring a story about Kiva. As if that was no big deal, Kiva got a big name behind them to sponsor their efforts, Maria Shriver, the wife of the Terminator Governor himself.

So why is Kiva getting the spotlight today? They opened up their platform to entrepreneurs in the United States, here is the official announcement:

“Today Kiva got a little closer to its mission of connecting people around the world for the sake of alleviating poverty. Starting today, lenders can make loans to microentrepreneurs in the US.

When Kiva first started, it focused on lending to entrepreneurs in Africa. In the last 4 years we have expanded to many more regions around the world, focusing in developing nations. However, our desire has always been to be a truly global organization, and to allow individuals anywhere in the world to make loans anywhere else in the world. Kiva believes that poverty exists in many forms throughout the world and that we can play a part in helping alleviate that poverty by allowing people to lend through our website.

Therefore, to be a truly global organization, Kiva is expanding into microfinance markets in the developed world. Since over 70% of our lenders are currently from North America, the United States was a natural first choice. We know there is much more to be done to fully achieve our mission of connecting people throughout the world, but we are very excited about this first step. We look forward to the day when money is flowing in all directions around the world through Kiva: a Guatemalan woman making a loan to an entrepreneur in Detroit, a man in Uganda making a loan to an entrepreneur in Rwanda, and an Italian lending to a Filipino farmer. We are excited about these possibilities and look forward to seeing them become a reality.”

The debate on this new feature has been animated to say the least. There are members that are very enthusiastic and believe that lending to entrepreneurs in the USA was the last missing feature to help more people leave poverty, and grow the Kiva lenders base.

Some others believe that entrepreneurs in the USA are far wealthier and in less need of help that people in developed countries. This will siphon funds that may otherwise could have gone to a truly needy entrepreneur that does not enjoy the opportunities that Americans have.

Browsing through the new loans on Kiva, I realized that some US entrepreneurs are well educated and already enjoy a good standard of living, for instance, Mark. Mark has an Architecture degree, is currently employed as a graphic designer, and he is planning to open his own small business, Urban Digital. He is requesting a $7,000 loan to fund his company. Mark was succesfull in getting the funds he needed from Kiva.

Seems to me like for this particular case, Mark could have found different funding resources that woud not have taken resources of Kiva lenders from other truly needed entrepreneurs. I am not saying that Mark's aspirations are not legitimate and he is less deserving, but I believe that it serves Kiva's purpouse better to find other entrepreneurs who to lend to.

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