Microloans: the local view

I enjoyed this update (which came in early August and I just rediscovered cleaning my inbox), and smiled especially at the reminder that everybody everywhere does the same thing when online: looks up their own name in a search engine.

This is an update on your loan to Blessing Obianyo in Nigeria. I’m excited to be writing you as the Kiva Fellow in Benin City, Nigeria. Over the next 3 months I will be witnessing firsthand the impact and realities of microfinance while working with Kiva’s Field Partner, Lift Above Poverty Organization (LAPO). As you may know, all entrepreneur profiles on Kiva's website are posted by local Field Partners (microfinance institutions), which are organizations that lend to the poor for poverty alleviation. The role of a Field Partner is to screen each entrepreneur, upload his/her loan request on the Kiva website, disburse the loan, and collect loan repayments.

In my role, I will be visiting many Kiva entrepreneurs and businesses and training LAPO staff in writing updates for Kiva lenders. As a result, many of you will receive an update on an entrepreneur who received a loan contribution from you. Unfortunately, due to the logistical and administrative constraints, reaching every entrepreneur for an update is not possible, even with the team of 8 people at LAPO who are dedicated to providing Kiva with photos and other content. Whether or not we provide an update on an entrepreneur to whom you loaned, I hope that you will enjoy the story of one Kiva borrower in Benin City that, to me, illustrates the “togetherness” and “unity” that is the inspiration for Kiva’s Swahili name. It is the story of Cookey Nosayana.

Cookey owns a 24-hour Internet café and computer training center. He took a Kiva loan to purchase a more efficient generator that has cut his fuel costs by more than half. It supplies his business with power despite the frequent and extended power outages that are common in Nigeria (in order to stay open for business, he must run a generator an average of 15 hours every day). Cookey is unique among LAPO (and likely Kiva) clients – he has access to the Internet. He is one of the few clients has been able to explore Kiva.org and experience the partnership that lenders have access to every time they sign on to their portfolio page. When I arrived to write his update, he was holding a printout of his borrower page. As a lender myself, I was excited to hear his perspective. He was gracious enough to answer my myriad of questions.

Cookey first found his profile on Kiva.org by accident. He was Googling “Cookey Nosayana” to see if he could find the meaning of his name. Up came Kiva.org. First he read what had been written in his business description. It was basic, but he was grateful that it had helped him get the capital to purchase a new generator. Then he started clicking around. He viewed his lenders – from the United States, Canada and the UK. They were working people, just like him. I asked him what he thought. Was he surprised that someone would lend him money from across the globe? He was grateful, but not surprised.

“We live in a humanitarian world,” he said. “It’s just like the head of LAPO [Godwin Ehigiamusoe],” Cookey continued. “When he first started LAPO people laughed. Now everyone is running to him for loans. It’s because it is a good idea.” Note: LAPO was started in 1987 when microfinance was still in its infancy and primarily limited to Asia. Those who believed in microfinance were still unsure about it’s promise in Nigeria. Godwin Ehigiamusoe blocked out the negativity, moved forward as he says, “with his heart and his head.” Today LAPO has 137 branches throughout Southern Nigeria and Sierra Leone, provides over $36,126,579 in loans each year and served 135,975 clients in 2007.

Now with LAPO partnering with Kiva, Cookey says that he would love to continue being part of this international web-based financial community. He has expansion plans for his business and will need additional capital to double the number of computers he has connected to the web. He hopes that LAPO will select him as a Kiva client a second time (His first Kiva loan will be paid off in 4 months so keep an eye out for him on the LAPO client lending page).

“Kiva is worthwhile,” says Cookey, “and will continue to be if both sides keep up their part.” As he explored the site, he browsed the businesses of his fellow borrowers from Indonesia to Azerbaijan and appreciated the widespread impact Kiva lenders were having. He believes that it is critical that Kiva entrepreneurs keep making payments and showing improvement and that lenders keep reinvesting their Kiva credit into new businesses as they are repaid.

From Kiva, LAPO and its family of borrowers, we thank you for your continued support of our work. To see all currently fundraising loans from LAPO on Kiva.org, please click
here: View fundraising LAPO entrepreneurs

Sincerely,
Jessica Heinzelman

Through Kiva I've made a LAPO managed loan to Blessing Obianyo in Lagos State, Nigeria, for her business "God's Own Restaurant". That loan is 38% repaid so far.

Overall, through Kiva I have a portfolio of $1200 loaned worldwide which I reinvest as loans are paid back (and which I hope to continue to increase in size). My funding has been used by 43 businesses in 34 countries. 14 loans in which my funds were some of the money lent have been paid back in full; none have defaulted. I do not earn interest on this money, but I consider it an extremely safe place to keep some of my savings because of the reliability of the borrowers in paying back their loans.

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dinahsanders

Author. Discardian. Defender of life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness. she/her

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