I am usually pretty thrilled with the announcement of new loan programs, especially for minority entrepreneurs. But this one caught me off guard.
Kiva is the organization that we have featured on our home page for several years now. Kiva’s mission is to help entrepreneurs in third world countries, from things as simple as buying a new cow. I have personally supported Kiva, and have been glad to do so, knowing that I have helped hard working entrepreneurs in third world countries.
But beginning today Kiva will offer minority business loans to entrepreneurs in the US.
Kiva didn’t intend to raise money for aspiring businesses in the world’s largest economy. But the reluctance of U.S. banks to lend during the past nine months caused the San Francisco-based nonprofit to reconsider, said Premal Shah, Kiva’s president.
Kiva relies on “group-funding” to make its loans. People come to its Web site, sift through the business plans of entrepreneurs and then contribute in $25 increments. The money is pooled to finance loans that typically range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. The repayments don’t include interest; people either get their original $25, keep it in the lending pot or donate toward Kiva’s administrative expenses.
Since 2005, Kiva has raised more than $75 million from 500,000 people and lent the money to about 180,000 entrepreneurs in 44 countries. About 98 percent of the loans have been repaid on time, Shah said.
I know times are tough in the US. But are we truly so bad off that our projects can sit comfortably next to a poor family in Afghanistan or Uganda?
This minority business loan program will be interesting to watch.