The world's largest micro-lending organisation KIVA, has announced that it will set up its Africa base in Nairobi to strengthen its partnerships and advance economic opportunity.
The Kenyan office will be Kiva's first outside the USA, a huge development for a non-profit organisation that was founded in 2005 to lend capital to the small and medium enterprise across the world aimed at alleviating poverty. Matt Flannery and Premal Shah who are the founders of the organisation said the regional office will be based at the Business Centre at Strathmore University on April 17 this year.
"As we open the doors to our new office Nairobi, we are opening the door for new opportunities and exciting partnerships across Africa,'' said Matt Flannery, CEO and co-founder of Kiva. He added that Nairobi is an emerging hub for numerous potential social enterprise buoyed by the entrepreneurial spirit that is hugely nurtured in the country.
Kiva's borrowers use internet connection and can access loans from as little as Sh2, 117 ($25) with a repayment rate of 98.9 per cent, lenders are privileged to relend their money or withdraw it from the system.
Kiva has 900,000 lenders and has so far distributed more than $410 million loans to one million people worldwide. In Kenya, the organisation has previously offered a total of $20.5 million to 63,000 individuals.
The organisation mostly relies on grant from its 250,000 partners from 125 countries globally.
"Fundamentally, Kiva is about recognising and supporting the potential of small enterprise and ideas to people across the globe with financial constraints,'' said Premal Shal, Kiva Co-founder and president.
Kiva micro-loans target borrowers investing in business, education, energy products and in sustainable agricultural practices in the country. In Kenya, the organisation has 14 partners.
Strathmore University is one of the key beneficiaries of this initiative, under their flexible, risk tolerant capital, Strathmore University students who comes from the poor background has accessed 11-year tuition loan that comes with a five year grace period.
Lydia Balil is one of the recipients of the education scheme under Kiva who is studying for a Bachelor of Commerce at the University. Being raised up in Turkana County in the remote area of Northern Kenya, her hopes for higher education were almost dashed off were it not for the financial support she received from the latter.
"My past experience almost compromised my education, given this chance by Kiva, my quest for higher education can now be achieved,'' she said.
Kiva key partner, Juhundi Kilimo has so far provided financial services to over 7,000 small scale farmers in the rural areas of Kenya where majority of the recipients are women.
Juhundi mission is to provide wealth creating financial services including conducive loans to acquire productive assets such as dairy cows and irrigation schemes.
Another partner identified by the name Komanza, helps the borrowers convert dry lands into productive and meaningful tree farms in the Eastern Kenya.
In May 2011, Kiva began a new lending channel dubbed ‘'Kiva Green Loans'' that target enterprises reducing energy consumption by coming up with new models of conserving waste and pollution by recycling used materials towards alleviating energy poverty and maintaining a healthy environment.
It is estimated that 1.5 billion people which is a quarter of the world's population do not have access to electricity where the only source of energy comes from costly and polluting products like charcoal and kerosene.
Kiva started its operation with only five employees with a total of $ 3,500 in funded loans. Today, it boasts to a huge global community of 850,000 members giving out $1.5 million in loans per week.
Kiva borrows its name from East Africa where its founders initially worked in Uganda and Kenya. In Uganda, Kiva is a colloquial word for unity.