My name is Liz O’Donnell and I’m one of the new Kiva Fellows.  I’m currently working with Caurie Microfinance based in Thiès, Senegal, about an hour and a half east of Dakar (which unlike Bamenda, Cameroonis really easy to get to from the US – a seven hour nonstop flight from your choice of New York, DC, or Atlanta).

I arrived in Senegal recently and while I have yet to go out into the field to meet Caurie clients, I wanted to share with you a video that I found helpful while trying to understand microfinance in Senegal, and the daily life of the borrowers here.  The video was made by a Kiva partner here in Senegal, SEM: Senegal Ecovillage Microfinance Fund. Now that I’m here, I can say that it gives a good picture of village life, not to mention a taste of Senegal’s wonderful music: 


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SEM is one of three microfinance partners here in Senegal, and each partner operates under a different model (read more about SEM from a 2008 Kiva Fellow). 

While SEM relies on the ecovillage concept, Caurie works exclusively with village banks – groups of 30-70 women – who join together to take out a group loan.  There’s also UIMCEC, where another fellow just landed (literally – within hours of this post being published), so you’re sure to hear more from Dakar soon.

One thing I do want to highlight about Caurie is its status as MIX Market “5 diamond profile of the month” for February 2009 on mixmarket.org, a web-based microfinance information platform that provides data on hundreds of MFIs (microfinance institutions), microfinance investors (including Kiva), and other partners. The 5 diamond rating indicates that the institution has displayed the highest level of disclosure in terms of data relating to impact and finances.  Caurie’s MIX Market profile is located here

There are currently 333 5 diamond profiles so Caurie is rightfully proud to be selected for the MIX Market’s homepage this month. If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty financial details of certain organizations or countries as it relates to both microfinance and macroeconomics, I highly recommend taking a look at MIX Market.  Note that the MIX Market profile for each Kiva partner can be accessed from the individual partner pages found on Kiva.org.

But beyond several great Senegalese partners, Kiva’s also lucky to have a full-time employee based in Dakar, Anne-Laure Behaghel, who is Kiva’s Partnership Development Specialist (PDS) responsible for West Africa.  So we’ve got 3 microfinance partners, 2 Kiva Fellows, 1 PDS … and maybe a partridge in a pear tree? (Actually, partridges can indeed be found Senegal, but pear trees, not so much.) As the microfinance sector in Senegal is quite large – according to 2003 data from the Dakar-based Central Bank of West African states (BCEAO), nearly 40% of Senegal’s population (which is currently estimated to be 13 million people in total) has borrowed money from microfinance providers — there is certainly room for the organization to grow here.  But Kiva is definitely starting from a strong base.

I’ll be writing about Caurie specifically much more in the coming weeks (you can also read earlier Caurie-related blog entries from a previous fellow). In the meantime, visit the Kiva website to find currently fundraising loans from Caurie, SEM, or UIMCEC.

Or you can take the opportunity during this Valentine’s month to share the Kiva love by purchasing a Kiva gift certificate.   I just gave one to my niece and nephew so they could understand exactly what I’m doing here in Senegal.   They have yet to choose an entrepreneur, but when they do, I’ve got my thoughts on where they should place their first loan …

- Liz O’Donnell, KF7

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