Thursday, October 6, 2011

Kiva Welcomes Milango Financial Services!

Please join us in welcoming Milango Financial Services, our newest field partner in Kenya!

Milango is located in Mombasa, Kenya's main port on the Indian Ocean, and the country's second largest city. Started in 2009, Milango has shown impressive growth in its first two years of operation. The organization operates six branches in Kenya's Coastal Province, and is one of two MFIs headquartered in the region. Milango has shown a deep commitment to working with rural clients, and currently 62% of the organization's portfolio is rural. Their average loan size is $263.47.

Milango offers a variety of innovative loan products to its clients, ranging from a savings product through Kenya Commercial Bank to microinsurance. The organization has also developed a loan product that targets clients who would otherwise not have access to financial services from MFIs. Dubbed the "Good Samaritan", this product gives start up capital to clients with no history of borrowing and no collateral, so that they can have the opportunity to create their own businesses. Through products like this, Milango has succeeded in bringing access to financial services in the region even further down the latter.

Milango also funds solar loans, so that clients can purchase solar panels to light their homes, charge cell phones, or rent out the lights to neighbors for additional income.

When I traveled to Milango to train them in Kiva processes, the dynamism and excitement at the young organization was almost palpable. Located in the busy Central Business District of Mombasa Town, Milango's headquarters also serves as one of their bank branches. People constantly come and go, and there is little idle time amongst the staff.

As part of the training, I requested to visit some of Milango's clients. On Tuesday, Mike, the Kiva Coordinator, and Esther, the Branch Manager for Milango's Town Branch, took me to visit Fatima. A diligent business woman, Fatima quit her job as an accounting clerk to go into business for herself. With the help of Milango loans, she has been able to expand her business from a used clothing store to now include a salon and a food stand outside of her establishment. She says that the daily income from selling soda and fried cassava helps smooth the less consistent cash flow from her other two businesses. She is the treasurer for her group, and diligently keeps the books for members, utilizing the skills she used as an accounting clerk.

Fatima started with a used clothing store

Fatima's entrepreneurial spirit to make a living for herself, on her own terms, is inspiring. She loves to talk about how she got the ideas for her businesses, and what she wants to do in the future. Beyond the three businesses that she already runs, she wants to begin selling new clothes and water. Starting with a loan of 40,000 Ksh (around $400) from Milango, she has been able to create business opportunities and increase her income. As a result, she enrolled her children in a private academy, ensuring them the best education she can afford. When I asked Fatima if she had any advice to lenders on Kiva, she told me that if other women have not yet joined an MFI, it's high time.

After opening a salon, Fatima decided to diversify into selling fried cassava and sodas, which has increased her daily cash flow.

After visiting her businesses, she invited me to attend her group's meeting the next day. I was taken aback by the diversity of activities that women pursue. One operates a tuk tuk (a small, 3-wheel taxi, ubiquitous on the coast), one operates a perfume store, and one owns a small restaurant. On the day that I attended, all of the members of Fatima's group were also taking loans for Milango's microinsurance product, which provides coverage for their entire families. Fatima had a Barefoot Power home solar kit set up in the living room, which can light the space during times of blackouts. She also purchased this with a loan from Milango.

Milango's slogan is "Connecting you to Opportunities", and by offering such a diverse range of products to its clients, it does just that. With a full assortment of loans, from savings through Kenya Commercial Bank to microinsurance to solar loans to start up loans to normal business loans, Milango's product offering is diverse. This variety in the organization's portfolio enforces the idea that MFIs can do more than just provide credit existing businesses.

With Kiva's capital, Milango will be able to extend its impact even further within the Coastal Province. By utilizing Kiva's low-cost capital, Milango will be able to access harder-to-reach clients, and by utilizing the risk tolerance of Kiva's funds, Milango will be able to pilot and experiment with even more innovative and high-impact products for its clients. Check back frequently to see the innovative and exciting loans that Milango will inevitably post to Kiva!

To see Milango's first loan, click here!