Jacqueline Novogratz is founder and CEO of Acumen Fund a very successful and fast growing nonprofit venture capital firm for the poor that invests in sustainable enterprises bringing healthcare, safe water, alternative energy, and housing to low income people in the developing world. She founded Acumen Fund in 2001 and by the end of 2008 this firm had approved more than $40 million on investments in 40 enterprises serving the poor, creating through these enterprises 23,000 jobs providing basic services like water and life saving malaria bed nets to millions of low income people around the world. Her book The Blue Sweater -Bridging the Gap between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World-is an inspiring memoir of a woman who left a career in international banking to spend her life on a quest to understand global poverty and find powerful new ways of tackling it. Many important lessons can be learned just by following her heartbreaking and hilarious stories of starting a microfinance institution and a bakery in Rwanda. Also the book is packed with examples that teach us humility and that good intentions alone are not enough as described through some failed programs of traditional charity that have left the poor people in the same or worse conditions. One also learns about the Rwandan genocide through the stories of the survivors that Novogratz had worked with. The book is inspiring, educational, entertaining and a must read for everyone and especially for those who aspire to make a difference.
Last week as I updated the figures on 2 representative microfinance investment funds, 3 MFIs, and kiva, the online microlending site, I was very pleased and relieved to see that microfinance continues to attract funding despite the current crisis. Although it is a small sample these funds and entities were featured in my book "Kleiner Einsatz, grosse Wirking (small input, large impact)" that was published last April. As I plan to publish the English version soon I thought I shall update some figures. As to the assets managed by the two funds (Dexia Microcredit Fund managed by BlueOrchard Finance and responsAbility's Global Microfinance Fund) my text read "the assets of the two funds have ballooned between end of 2004 to Sept 2007. Dexia grew from USD 50 to 207mn and responsAbility's fund from USD 8 mn to 159 mn" The corresponding figures for July 2009 are Dexia USD 502 mn and responsAbility USD 492 mn! The 3 MFI figures that I updated were: 1) Grameen Bank which had disbursed as of Sept 2007 loans totalling Taka 344 bn or USD 6.5bn. in June 2009, these figures were Taka 458 bn or USD 8.2 bn, 2) FINCA I updated the number of borrowers from 600,000 to 725,000, and 3) Banco Compartamos the figures for June 2007 - loan portfolio of Pesos 3.3 bn or USD 304 mn reaching 705,000 clients. The updated June 2009 figures are loan portfolio of Pesos 6.7 bn or USD 517 mn and reaching 1.3 mn clients. Lastly, Kiva, the online microlending site where anyone with an internet connection can support a microentrepreneur around the world starting with USD 25, continues to register phenomenal growth. In February 2008 Kiva had provided USD 21.5 mn worth of loans from 242,000 lenders. Only 18 months later as of August 2009 Kiva has distributed over USD 85.3 mn loans from 537,000 lenders.
It is a selected group of entities but the growth rates are amazing.