Supe Proposes New Partnership To Provide Microfinance Loans To Businesses

A San Francisco supervisor proposed a new partnership Tuesday between the city and the microfinance organization Kiva to support local small businesses.

Supervisor Mark Farrell at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting introduced a resolution to establish the new public-private partnership with Kiva, which uses a crowd-funding model to provide loans to small businesses around the world who do not have access to traditional banks.

The nonprofit has started a new project, Kiva Zip, to provide zero percent loans to small businesses in the U.S., and San Francisco would become the second city to partner with them after Oakland joined up earlier this year.

Farrell said the program would help small businesses that “lack access to the capital they need to start or expand their businesses.”

Loans would start at $5,000 and the city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development would act as the official city trustee to identify small businesses that qualify as Kiva Zip borrowers, Farrell said.

The supervisor said he has already signed up as a trustee for Abundant Market, a small shop that opened recently in his district’s Pacific Heights neighborhood and is trying to raise money through Kiva Zip to expand their business.

Farrell said the city and trustees have no financial liability for the loans and encouraged the other supervisors to sign up as trustees for small businesses in their districts.

The resolution would call on the Office of Economic and Workforce Development to establish a process for how potential borrowers can qualify for the Kiva Zip loans.

“We have the opportunity to engage and empower our community in new ways” and “help create thriving neighborhoods” in the city, Farrell said.

More information about the program can be found at zip.kiva.org.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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  • Hugh Sinclair

    Lenders on Kiva earn no return regardless of the location of the borrower. So, why are entrepreneurs entitled to interest-free loans in the USA, while the poor in developing countries are expected to pay rates that sometimes approach 100% interest per year? The standard rhetoric justifying high interest rates to the poor is that the operating costs are high and such lending is risky. Surely this also applies in the USA?

    It would be interesting to ask those who receive interest-free loans how they would feel paying interest of 60%, like Kiva expects poor Sudanese women to.