Next Steps for Kiva’s Partner in South Africa

One of my favorite pictures from a recent borrower visit: Work and Pray Computers.

You may or may not have noticed that posts from South Africa have been on the non-specific end of the spectrum. This is because Kiva’s first partner in South Africa, Women’s Development Businesses (WDB), is currently in a “pilot” stage*. Both Kiva and WDB are figuring out the best processes and procedures for working together so that WDB can keep doing what it does best and Kiva and Kiva’s users can have the reporting they crave.

If you were eagerly awaiting lots of info from South Africa, this is the post for you! And if you just want to see happy pictures of loan officers and clients, all you have to do is scroll to the bottom of the page.

To give you a little background, when WDB and Kiva first partnered at the end of November 2010, one lead DA (their term for “loan officer”; short for “Development Assistant”) from each of the seven regional branches in KwaZulu-Natal South was trained in Kiva as were their branch managers. Unfortunately, a number of issues conspired to slow down the number of loans posted to the site. First of all, WDB’s database was down for a week which not only stopped data entry in December but also created a backlog that was further impacted by the Christmas holiday (over two weeks long). By the time things started returning to normal, it had been over a month-and-a-half since training and everyone was due for a Kiva refresher.

Fortunately, WDB had the foresight to schedule a check-in meeting for February 14 which turned out to be incredibly informative and productive. One of our suggestions at the meeting was to start immediately training all DAs in Kiva so WDB could begin to meet its fundraising goals on the site. This suggestion came out of meetings with branch mangers, current Kiva DAs, and discussions between me and the former South Africa Kiva Fellow and I got the go-ahead to start training the very next day.

To look quickly at the numbers behind the decision, WDB had only raised 26% of its potential for the past three months ($19,625 out of a potential $75,000) as of mid-February. The good news was that every loan posted from South Africa had been funded in less than a day. But the final piece of information I struggled to find – a key indicator of WDB’s potential – was how many loans under ZAR 13,500** (the approximate limit we are using for WDB’s loans on are disbursed in the region in any given month. This information would tell me if there was enough volume to support the Kiva program.

After struggling to find an appropriate report in the database, I went about the project the old-fashioned way. With help, I found the binder with all the disbursements for December and spent an afternoon entering the branch, the group, and the loan amount into a spreadsheet.

The numbers were crystal clear: most of WDB’s branches in the region could easily meet Kiva’s goals based on their own loan disbursements and there were approximately 300 loans in the entire region in December that met Kiva’s financial requirements. (The other requirements to be on Kiva include a signed waiver so that clients understand that their image and information will be posted on the Internet and a completed interview form.) This information solidified my position that training all the DAs in the region had the potential to make a huge impact on the number of loans you see on from South Africa.

And now for the great news: I can report that mere days after our regional meeting on Monday, new DAs in Nkandla have already been trained in the Kiva process and they even signed up their first loan for Kiva on Wednesday! Look for this loan and many more in the next few weeks.

*Pilot Partners have recently started working with Kiva. They are allowed to raise funds on a limited basis until they pass a “pilot consultation” which includes meeting fundraising and reporting targets, verifying loan information, and creating official processes and procedures for administering Kiva, among other things.

**Per Kiva’s rules on loans to groups with five members, WDB’s standard loan structure, the total loan cannot exceed US $2000 on Kiva’s site. We felt that looking at loans under ZAR 13,500 would give us plenty of wiggle room if the exchange rate continues to fluctuate. (On 2/17/11, the exchange rate was 7.25 ZAR = 1 USD so WDB could technically post loans up to ZAR 14,447.66 on that day.)

Alexis Ditkowsky (KF14) works with Women’s Development Businesses in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Check out WDB’s lending team and stay tuned for new loans on their lending page.

Previous posts by Alexis Ditkowsky:
First Borrower Visit (Take 350+)
A Hand-Delivered Kiva Fellow
Drawings from Training and Greetings from Boston

On Wednesday, I went to the Nkandla branch to train DAs in Kiva's processes. Here, Slindile practices explaining Kiva to Sibongile and filling out the interview form. Favorite fake businesses from training: selling chickens and providing laundry services.

The borrower photo: a very important step. Also important: showing them the picture! (From L-R: Slindile, Nenisile, Gugulethu, and Sibongile)

After the morning training, Nenisile, Slindile, Zandile (the Nkandla Branch Manager), and I traveled to the Thusong Service Center to meet with potential borrowers. Fifty women were expected but only one complete group of five made it during our three hours on site.

Making sure the picture will be perfect

This was Nenisile's first time signing up borrowers for Kiva and she was a natural

A little more about the group: Their group name is "Siyaphambili" or "We are moving forward" in Zulu. Their businesses included: selling cooking oil and snacks at pension points; selling vegetables from home and at pension points; selling blankets and clothes for kids; selling skirts and tops at pension points; and selling chickens and skirts and tops. In South Africa, pensions are distributed on different days in different places so women from groups like Siyaphambili set up shop when and where people are most likely to spend their money.

About the author

Alexis Ditkowsky