TechCrunch reports on a Kiva lending team upset over Kiva’s decision to expand their microfinance platform to include U.S. based entrepreneurs. The crux of their gripe is the basically that poverty does not exist in the United States to the extent that it exists in the developing countries that Kiva has typically supported. Their profile page (http://www.kiva.org/team/pissed_off_kiva_lenders) has this to say about U.S. based entrepreneurs:
For one thing they have a mind boggling head start on quality of life. **US borrowers do not have to pay to send their kids to elementary school. **They don’t have to build their own house. **They don’t have to walk miles to get the bare minimum of medical care….if needed they can access FREE, generally high quality medical care. **They have a system of laws and courts in place that work. **They enjoy police and fire protection. **They generally have access to inexpensive and dependable public transportation. **They take for granted electricity, clean water, inspected food and indoor toilets. **They have an ASTONISHING, and humbling diversity of social programs, religious outreach and charitable services available to them. **They have an array of ways and means to raise start up capital. We DO support the needs of the truly impoverished entrepreneurs in developing countries. We want Kiva to stop loaning in the US.
Ouch. I have commented elsewhere about the difficulty of Kiva’s expansion into the U.S. My critique was basically that Kiva does not solve the same problem in the U.S. that is addresses in developing countries. In developing countries, Kiva provides loans to people who would otherwise not be able access financing from anywhere. But in the United States, financing for loans of a few thousand dollars or less is generally available to most U.S. entrepreneurs in the form of credit cards. So Kiva’s entry into the U.S. does not address a capital deficient market as much as it simply makes capital available at a below market (zero) interest rate.
However, I cannot share the sentiment expressed by the Pissed Off crew. While I can accept that, for the reasons stated, they might choose themselves not to contribute to U.S. based entrepreneurs, I simply cannot see how they can justify attempting to force Kiva to stop presenting it as an option to everyone else. Kiva has always provided a large variety of countries and entrepreneurs for lenders to choose from. A case can almost always be made that one country or one entrepreneur is more or less deserving than another. But the beauty of Kiva is that is embraces a form of direct democracy – each lender can decide for themselves who they feel is most deserving and how much they want to help. While the Pissed Off crew are certainly entitled to their opinion, I can’t see how they ought to be entitled to deny everyone else theirs.