Fresh Ideas: Investing in futures around the world
Special to the Nevada Appeal
Last week I lent $20 to a 25-year-old taxi driver in Kabul, Afghanistan. Shah Raza Muhammed became engaged two years ago and now he wants to get married. He needs 50,000 Afghani ($1,050) for some of his wedding expenses. In lending Shah Raza $20, I joined an international team of small lenders who had decided to support Shah Raza in his marriage plans, including Liz V. from Houston, Texas; Amin from Tehran, Iran; Thomas from Fort Mill, S.C.; Chih Yuan from Beijing, China, and Jean Claude from Vancouver, British Columbia.
I’ve never been to Afghanistan and I’m pretty sure Shah Raza’s other lenders haven’t either. We’re unlikely ever to meet Shah Raza or each other. How did we get together?
A few years ago I thought hard about to how I wanted to invest my savings. It’s important to me that my investments are consistent with my values, so I checked out investment vehicles variously known as sustainable investing, ethical investing, green investing, and socially responsible investing. I found a couple of mutual funds I put some money into, and I found Kiva.org. Kiva is a net-based micro-lending organization that gets small lenders like me together with small borrowers like Shah Raza.
Three years ago I invested $100 with Kiva, making loans to Bilhatu Namji to open a clothing store in Nigeria; to Navigodo Founou to expand her grocery store in Togo; and to Jane Wangeci Maritu in Kenya to buy additional stock for her second-hand shoe business. When those loans were paid back – usually in increments of $2 or $3 at a time – I made other loans, and now Shah Raza’s wedding expense is my 11th investment.
The only default has been by Jane Maritu, who failed to pay back the last $180 of her $500 loan. While I don’t know for certain, I suspect she defaulted because her shop and stock were destroyed in the ethnic violence in Kenya after the last election.
Of course, I don’t make any money. The loans are interest-free, and whenever I loan I donate a few dollars to Kiva so they can carry on their work. But, boy, have they given me a lot of pleasure.
I’ve always wanted to go to Afghanistan. It’s unlikely I’ll ever make it, but now 20 of my dollars are there helping Shah Raza toward what I hope will be a happy marriage. And in Mongolia – another place I’m unlikely ever to visit and have always wanted to – there is an auto parts store run by Tserendo Buyant in Uvurhangai that has some stock funded by me.
Who would ever have thought I’d have the opportunity to invest in auto parts in Mongolia?
• Anne Macquarie, a private sector urban planner, is a long time resident of Carson City.