Mali is a great place. When I was young, I once met a now-famous architect, Kai Uwe-Bergmann, in Casablanca, and we decided to travel together, commencing next day, to Timbuktoo, which we did, up the Niger River, in a pirogue. There was a time when the Niger River was so big it was as if we were at sea. No shores to be seen. Now, I yearn to go back to attend a Festival au Desert. We also rode horses with some Peace Corps folk through Dogon Country, a place so fascinating that it gives rise to the joke ‘Q: How many people in a traditional Dogon family? A: Five. 2 parents, 2 children, and one French anthropologist.’ Sounds like the crowds have descended now, and there is even an eccentric hotel. But that is all by way of self-indulgent explanation of why, when I re-discovered the website Kiva a few months ago, I chose some Malian women from the Niger River town, Segou, who wanted extra capital with which to diversify their wares, principally beans in the case of the group’s leader, to lend $25 to. I would hope that most readers of this blog would have heard of Muhammed Yunus, the Bangladeshi founder of the Grameen Bank, and of micro-credit more generally. He won a Nobel prize. Kiva is a newish web-based form of micro-credit which allows rich Joe Bloes to lend small amounts of money directly to poor Joe Bloes and know what they are going to do with it. Kiva runs the website and arranges the transfer of funds to and from the microcredit agencies they partner with, and those agencies actually administer the loan on the ground. Below, I have proposed that we join together to lend to a Mongolian taxi driver who lives in a ger, which is, as you probably know, the Mongolian yurt.
Thirty-two others also contributed towards my loan to the bean ladies of $950: 16 Americans, 2 other Australians, 3 Dutch, 2 Germans, 2 Canadians, 2 French, an Italian, a Norwegian, and 3 from places undisclosed. And now it’s half-paid back, on time. As with any unsecured loan, you can lose your money making these loans. But rates of default are low, except where some disaster strikes a community unexpectedly. Amazingly, the local partner of Save the Children who makes the loan has a default rate of nil. And although the borrowers pay interest, I only get my $25 back, a year down the track: the interest pays for administration. Nevertheless, for all those stout burghers who worry about their charity dollar getting eaten up by administration, this is another way of helping people poorer than us.
Now, I urge you to sign up to lend Enhbaatar Nyamsuren of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital $25 (or a multiple of $25). As you can read here (which is also the page you go to to lend your $25 online), he is a mini-van driver and needs a more modern vehicle to improve his business. He lives in a ger. The micro-credit agency involved has a default rate of nil. Borrowers from it pay an average of 25% of the capital borrowed in fees and interest (over the term of the loan, not per annum). If you lend an amount, leave a comment, so I can see if my proselytisation has had any effect. If enthusiasm is evident, we could start a lending group ‘Readers of Australian Professional Liability Blog’.