Kiva, Silatech Launch Microsite for Micro Lending in the Arab World

by Glen Dalakian II, October 15, 2012

After partnering to create Kiva Arab Youth in April of this year, Kiva and Silatech have just launched a “microsite” in Arabic alongside a new social media campaign to further highlight the microfinance needs of young entrepreneurs in the Arab world.

Garnering over $360 million in crowdfunded micro loans worldwide, Kiva has attracted nearly 840,000 individual lenders to give small loans to projects across the globe. Justin Sykes, Silatech’s Director of Microenterprise, notes that out of this $360 million, only 5% has gone to projects in the Arab world and only 1% of individual lenders come from MENA.

Though Kiva has several field partners in Arab countries including Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Yemen, they have seen very low levels of interest in the Arab world to date – over 40% of the loans to the Arab world have expired unfulfilled.

Silatech saw an opportunity to reach this untapped and unfunded potential in the Arab world. In partnership with Kiva, Silatech has started a heavy online push for Arab youth projects and Arab lenders on the Kiva platform.

Previously, Kiva had created a channel on their site dedicated to Arab youth projects (under 30 years old), but now they're upping the stakes with the new Arabic microsite, which will highlight funded success stories.

Silatech is also incentivizing Kiva lending in the Arab World by offering to match the amounts that lenders pledge. Thus far, Sykes boasts that Silatech has mobilized $1.7 million in loans through the platform, matching 35,000 individual lenders and funding over 1400 projects.

One of the challenges of promoting loans in the region, that has kept rates so low in the Arab World, is that the concept of online giving is very young and credit card trust is low, says Sykes. Yet times are changing. Thanks to this recent boost, the average individual loan to these projects is around US $30-35, with an average total loan amount at around $1500 - now stronger than Kiva’s averages in Africa, Sykes explains.

Perhaps it's because of a generational change, he says. “The younger generation, particularly young professionals in the Arab world, don’t want to give in the way that their parents or grandparents gave," says Sykes. "They still want to give, they still want to have a charitable impact, and this type of platform offers a new way to do that.”

Interested lenders can check out the microsite and find Kiva Arab Youth on Facebook and Twitter.

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Glen is Features Editor at Wamda. You can follow him on Twitter @glenjd2, connect with him on LinkedIn and Google+, or reach him at glen[at]wamda[dot]com.