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Monday
Sep142009

P2P microfinance for education, entrepreneurship, or work?

Internet platforms are springing up to connect western lenders directly to developing world borrowers in the name of ending poverty, embracing different philosophies on how to achieve the same end. We've covered (here, here, here and here) Kiva and Microplace, who each embrace micro-entrepreneurship; Samasource who challenges you to "give work"; and Acumen Fund, who invests patient capital. The latest is Vittana Foundation, a non-profit startup specializing in education microfinance.

Vittana is seeking to bring change to the developing world by expanding access to student loans. On the site, you can lend to students though microfinance institutions (MFIs), helping them attend school and ostensibly opening up additional opportunities for social mobility:

Your student goes to school. He graduates and then gets a real, stable, salaried job. Congratulations! Your student has taken the first step towards a thriving, successful life. Real change has begun.

But I wonder whether an education necessarily means opportunity in many of these countries. Are the jobs there to provide gainful employment to new graduates? I embrace increased access to education as a step towards reducing poverty, but how does Vittana fit into the increasingly dense international p2p lending space?

Is it targeting a different population than the micro-entrepreneurs on Kiva? Kiva co-founder Jessica Jackley is on Vittana's advisory committee, so clearly she sees it as providing an important additional service. Could it be a complement to the job training and work focus of Samasource?

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