By Alex Silversmith, KF14, Jordan
As protests carry on and promises continue to be broken in Cairo, one bank that serves the poor in neighboring Jordan has found an innovative way to help make sure that promises are kept.
In Egypt, 18 days of consecutive protest have followed January 25th, when Egyptians demanded President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation in response to rising unemployment, insufficient standards of living, and a weak economy. In Jordan, several protests have occurred since January 28th, when Jordanians demanded a new prime minister to better grapple with rising food prices and unemployment.
The goal of microfinance is to provide low-income people with an opportunity to become self-sufficient. If an entrepreneur is able to improve or grow their business as a result of a microloan, they may be able to improve their standard of living and reinvest part of their profit back into the community. A microloan can make self-employment sustainable for entrepreneurs who may not otherwise be able to work, and can allow growing businesses to hire additional staff.
Souk Ayyadi is an arts and crafts market that sells and advertises products made by Tamweelcom entrepreneurs (i.e., borrowers). Tamweelcom is a microfinance bank in Jordan that offers a variety of loans to entrepreneurs, some of whom produce arts and crafts. Begun in 2007 as a way to help Tamweelcom entrepreneurs market their products to new buyers throughout Jordan, Souk Ayyadi showcases the products of entrepreneurs in different areas of Jordan and fosters more direct transactions between the entrepreneurs and their customers. Microloans have helped several participating entrepreneurs to generate higher profits and in at least once case, employ additional members of the community. When some entrepreneurs receive a loan, they make a promise to themselves to repay it and to grow their business. With both a loan and an outlet to sell their product, entrepreneurs may be more likely to keep the promise they made to themselves, and turn that promise into a greater opportunity.
Some successful Souk Ayyadi participants have been able to make a better living and gainfully employ both themselves and others, providing one small solution to chip away at some of the larger issues driving the protests in Egypt and Jordan. Microfinance is not a panacea for the problems being protested, but it does represent the impact that individual lenders and entrepreneurs can have on people and the world around them. Through Kiva, you can lend to low-income entrepreneurs around the world. To make a loan, click here.
Alex Silversmith is a Kiva Fellow working in Jordan.