I’ve been desperate to loan to a South African entrepreneur, but until now I’ve been holding back for a number of reasons- all of them related to concerns I have with the only Kiva MFI working in South Africa. But more about that later…
First, meet Ntombikayise! Here’s her description from Kiva:
“Ntombikayise is 47 years old and married with 7 children between the ages of 10 and 33. She sells mats house to house in Mtubatuba, Kwazulu Natal in South Africa. She is wearing a black and white head scarf in the photo above.
She’s been in this business for 10 years. She also earns income from the government’s child support grant. She says that the main challenge to her business is that her customers do not pay on time.
She requested this loan through Women’s Development Businesses to buy material for making mats. She says that the extra income from this loan will help her send her children to school. In the future, she would like to see herself being a mats supplier.”
I chose Ntombikayise over a handful of other South African loans for a few reasons. Obviously, the biggest reason being that I like the direction she is taking. She has a brilliant business idea and she crafts things (mats) which are both useful and beautiful. There are also some more personal reasons why Ntombikayise was the one:
1. I love mats. They’re very pretty and simple and functional. A few years ago I camped in Mozambique and froze quite terribly in the night. The next night, I was kindly loaned a traditional mat, which kept me warm and toasty. Here’s to many more nights being kept warm and toasty by a mat. Mats are love.
2. There’s a beautiful Zulu film I’ve watched about 12 times called, ‘Izulu Lami’. It’s about an orphaned girl and her little brother who travel to Durban to sell the last mat their mother made. Lots of awful things happen to her, but she discovers her love of craft and starts making the most enchanting things from junk she finds on the beach. It’s a little like flip flop art and she sells it to a high-end craft gallery in the city. This loan sort of reminded me of that.
3. Ntombikayise lives in one of the most beautiful places in South Africa. Her town, Mtubatuba, is remote and surrounded by nature reserves, including St. Lucia. I believe that people who live in beautiful places are inspired to create beautiful things.
4. Mtubatuba is incredibly fun to say! Just try it. It’s awesome.
5. She’s using some of the loan to pay school fees. South African school fees are extremely unfair. Even the poorest parents sending their children to the lowest quality school must pay school fees. And buy uniforms. Knowing I’ve helped someone just a little with this burden brings me comfort.
6. Her main challenge is that her customers don’t pay her in a timely manner. This is a real South African business ethic fail. “Yeah, I’ll pay you now-now. We’ll make a plan”. Ntombikayise has both hair and a smile. I would have neither if I had to operate a business in this environment. Love and respect.
Finally, a note about the MFI. I mentioned that I had some reservations with them. But this time, I’ve decided to loan anyway. I’ve put aside my worries and put some faith in them instead. Here are my reasons.
‘Womens Development Businesses (WDB)’, is a brand new MFI to Kiva, and they still have a ‘pilot’ status. Recently, I read a great article about what they’re trying to achieve and I think they’re worth the risk. Empowering and giving opportunities to rural women is kudutastic.
Here’s a little info from Kiva about the KZN based MFI:
“The core business of WDB MF is making credit accessible and available to rural women who are the poorest of the poor.
The strategic drivers of WDB MF are to:
• Disburse loans to poor rural women using a relationship based methodology, on a professional basis with the aim of supporting their self-development activities and improving the quality of life in their families
• Build women’s financial knowledge and business skills, through participation in the credit scheme
• Support technical, managerial, leadership and other skills, through training to enhance women’s income generating activities and productivity
• Strengthen community and women’s organizations and services by working with them in offering credit, training and technical assistance
• Support, assist and conduct research programmes which are necessary for the viability of projects and women’s advancement as a whole
• Share knowledge, expertise, experiences and information through coordinating with women’s and development groups and producing accessible and relevant material”
So I wish Ntombikayise all my love and happiness and I hope that this loan will provide her with everything she needs it to.