Monday, April 18, 2011

Welcoming Micro Start, Kiva's first Field Partner in Burkino Faso

Written by Kathy Guis, Field Support Specialist Francophone Africa and the Middle East

Please join Kiva in welcoming Micro Start (Action des Femmes pour le Développement), Kiva’s newest field partner, and our first partner in Burkina Faso! Headquartered in Ouagadougou (the country's capital city), Micro Start was founded by women to serve women. The institution was born when a group of 8 women, each of whom had significant experience in business and microfinance, pooled their own funds in order to found an institution that would support poor women entrepreneurs through lending. 10 years later, the institution operates 5 branch offices and serves approximately 17,000 clients, 92% of whom are female.

Micro Start provides solidarity group loans starting at $50 per member (a group of Micro Start borrowers appear in the above photo with their wares), individual loans, bicycle and motorbike loans, and gas stove loans. The gas stove loans (about $44 per loan) are designed improve clients’ quality of life and to positively impact the environment, since the loans help clients afford to stop cooking with wood and charcoal.
The Micro Start management team (pictured below) includes three of the original founders, and strives to continually improve the services they provide to Burkinabe entrepreneurs.

Burkina Faso (which literally translates to: the house of the upright people, in Mòoré and Dioula, two local languages) is a landlocked West African nation home to about 17 million people. It is known in West Africa for producing the region’s finest handwoven fabric and shea butter. The average Burkinabe can expect to live to be 53.7 years old and make $1200 per year (CIA World Factbook). The country was ranked the 4th poorest in the world by the Oxford Multidimensional Poverty Index.

The country has been under military rule since the 1980s. Due to political unrest, the government has instituted a 9pm curfew in Ouagadougou, as I experienced firsthand during my training visit in late March. The curfew ends at 6am, leaving many entrepreneurs little time to gather their wares together and make the long trip into town to earn their living.

Please join us in applauding Micro Start's work and warmly welcoming the institution’s first borrowers to! To learn more Micro Start, visit their partner page, or lend to one of its first Kiva loans.