Kiva Zip Pilot in Kenya Winding Down

After 4 years, and nearly 10,000 loans to more than 6,500 borrowers, we’ve made the difficult decision to wind down the Kiva Zip program in Kenya.

We are unreservedly and emphatically proud of the achievements of the Kiva Zip Kenya team in launching and growing this program. And we’re unreservedly grateful to the more than 8,000 Kiva lenders around the world who made Zip loans in Kenya possible.

Many of the entrepreneurs we served through this program live in remote, rural communities in western Kenya, or the slums of Kibera in Nairobi. Kiva Zip loans gave them access to 0% interest microcredit on their mobile phones, and allowed them to use those same mobile phones to interact with their team of lenders on the other side of the world. When I met with a borrower in Mathare slum on a recent visit to Kenya, and asked her how she felt about her Kiva Zip loan, she said, "Tell Anders I say ‘hi.’” Anders is one of her lenders, halfway around the world.

In total, over 37,000 comments and messages have flown back and forth between the Zip Kenya borrowers and lenders. Messages of support and encouragement, advice and explanation, hardship and hope. Of all the lessons we have learned over the last 4 years running the Kiva Zip Kenya pilot, it is perhaps this lesson -- of the Kiva model’s ability to create meaningful, valuable and reciprocal connections between borrowers and lenders from completely different backgrounds -- that will prove the most enduringly significant.

But the Kiva Zip Kenya program has also experienced a growing number of operational challenges. Delays in both loan disbursal and repayment processing have kept borrowers waiting for loans, and lenders waiting on notification of repayment. Many Trustees also hit logistical challenges that were discouraging their participation. Over time, we’ve seen the cumulative repayment rate decline as well.

While we still believe direct lending holds great promise for Kiva, it’s become clear that in order for the Kiva direct model to be sustainable, borrowers themselves must be digitally included at a level that is currently not common for low-income borrowers in developing countries. To compensate for this gap in connectivity, Trustees in Kenya were taking on an untenable amount of work, from filling out applications to repayment collection, all as volunteers.

Over the last few years, we have heard from many Kenyan Trustees that their enthusiasm for the Kiva Zip program has been significantly dampened by their inability to receive any compensation for the services that they have been providing. That feedback is part of why our assessment of Kiva Zip Kenya found that the model has grown to mirror the partner model in many ways.

We plan to continue to hone and refine the direct model in the U.S., but are seeing our greatest impact in Kenya through our Field Partners, who have facilitated loans to more than 120,000 borrowers. We’ll be refocusing our efforts in Kenya with these partners and working to transition some Zip Kenya Trustees to Field Partners.

We will also be taking steps to ensure that Kiva Zip Kenya borrowers are able to continue working towards their goals. Kiva has a strong network of 33 Field Partners in Kenya, and we will do our best to ensure that Kiva Zip borrowers are aware of, and connected to, the financial resources that are most suited to their specific needs.

At this time, we’ve stopped posting new direct loans in Kenya on the Kiva Zip website, and we will no longer disburse any loans to Kenyan borrowers. Any loans still fundraising will be taken down, and lenders that have contributed to these loans will be refunded to their Kiva Zip accounts.

Over the coming months, we will continue to collect repayments on the outstanding portfolio of loans and will return these repayments to lenders as they are received. Based on the repayment schedules of these loans, we expect the majority of Kenyan repayments to come in between now and the end of 2015.

We hope you’ll continue to help people around the world work towards their dreams with Kiva. There are many Kenyan loans fundraising on Kiva.org -- loans made by well-run, socially-transformative Field Partners like One Acre Fund, Juhudi Kilimo and Sanergy, whom we are proud to work with.

Finally, we wanted to thank you, sincerely, for joining us on this adventure. We endeavored to clearly communicate the risks of the Kiva Zip Kenya pilot from Day 1. You bore them. You experienced the same operational glitches that our Kenyan borrowers and Trustees did. You stuck with us. Through your feedback, you have helped to keep us accountable. And through your immense generosity, you have helped to inspire us to keep going.

The lessons that we have learned as a company from running the Kiva Zip Kenya pilot over the last 4 years have been massive. And they have better-equipped us to chase our mission in the years ahead -- "to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.” Thank you for making Kiva Zip Kenya possible.

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Posted by Jonny Price , Senior Director, Kiva Zip

Sep 16, 2015

Jonny first came to Kiva in 2009 as a volunteer on a 5-month externship from his management consulting firm Oliver Wyman. After 6 years at Oliver Wyman, first in London and then in San Francisco, he joined Kiva full-time in September 2011, to lead the Kiva Zip program.

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