Online auction giant eBay has launched a microlending Web site that lets people invest in entrepreneurs in poor communities around the world and get a return on their money.
Unlike micro-finance organizations that make interest-free loans to people in developing countries, Microplace.com offers investors profits for funding people trying to build better lives, founder Tracey Turner says.
"You are actually investing in the world's working poor," Turner said. "And for the first time you get a return on investment. You can take the profit and invest in more people in a virtuous cycle."
Turner's vision of MicroPlace began taking shape in 2005, after she lived for a time with a Kenyan family comprised of a single mother caring for three children.
The Kenyan woman bought a sewing machine with US$100 she borrowed and started an in-home business making school uniforms for local children.
The woman paid the debt and managed to send one of her sons to college in the US.
"When you are out in the field talking to these women whose lives are transformed because of US$30 or US$10, then you are part of the movement forever," Turner said.
California-based eBay bought Turner's business plan in June last year and the Web site launched on Oct. 24 this year.
Web site visitors can browse investors by country, seeing pictures of people seeking loans and reading about their business goals.
MicroPlace connects investors with micro-finance organizations in the various countries. MicroPlace scrutinizes the organizations to check their legitimacy.
"Our job is to vet," Turner said. "We do a lot of research."
Turner said the rates of return are modest but that investors at the Web site see value in addressing global poverty. Lenders shoulder the risk that their loans will not be repaid.
"The eye-opening thing for everyone is that repayment rates by the working poor remain unbelievably high, north of 98 percent," Turner said.
Thousands of people visit the Web site daily and hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans have already been issued, MicroPlace said. In keeping with the holidays, some have made gifts of loans by issuing in others' names.
"What gets me out of bed in the morning is the idea that when you invest in a person it really honors them and enhances their dignity as a human being," Turner said. "Which is different than a handout."
MicroPlace gets fees from microfinance organizations that get money through the Web site. Money is moved through online financial transactions firm PayPal, which eBay owns.
"I think it is important everyone from the investor to the person making baskets in a village makes a profit," Turner said. "The beauty and magic of micro-finance is that it is scalable. That is the only way it will scale."
EBay has promised that any profits made by MicroPlace will be invested in other initiatives for social good, Turner said.
EBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife have channeled hundreds of millions of dollars into microloans through their own foundation and are investors in online microlending Web site Kiva.
"The industry is growing like crazy right now," Turner said. "It is a new kind of asset class. It is a wise investment."
SAFETY RISK: The government is working to categorize countries based on their COVID-19 cases and prevention efforts, which would determine quarantine periods The government plans to rank countries based on their COVID-19 risks to determine how to treat tourists and other travelers from those nations once Taiwan reopens its borders, but it is still working out the categories, a top health official told lawmakers yesterday. “We would divide countries around the world into several categories. One category would comprise those countries with very few confirmed COVID-19 cases, such as New Zealand and Palau. Travelers from the countries in this category would only need to practice self-health management,” Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) told a Legislative Yuan seminar hosted by
China would attack Taiwan if there is no other way of stopping it from becoming independent, Chinese General Li Zuocheng (李作成) said yesterday. Speaking at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on the 15th anniversary of China’s “Anti-Secession” Law, Li, who is chief of the Joint Staff Department of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Central Military Commission, left the door open to using force. The 2005 law is China’s legislative basis for military action against Taiwan. “If the possibility for peaceful reunification is lost, the people’s armed forces will, with the whole nation, including the people of Taiwan, take all necessary steps to
SECURITY CONCERNS: The Telecom Technology Center ran black-box tests for the Executive Yuan on devices and software from Chinese, US and South Korean firms Network devices from several Chinese manufacturers are insecure and allow personal information to be leaked, testing commissioned by the Executive Yuan has shown. A variety of devices and software, including apps, from Chinese, US and South Korean manufacturers that are used by government agencies at the central and local level were subjected to black-box testing — in which the functionality of an application is examined without knowing about its internal structure, an information-security official said yesterday on condition of anonymity. The Telecom Technology Center conducted the tests, which simulated cyberattacks, to determine their resilience to the attacks, the official said. The center
CASH BOOST: Foreign spouses with residency permits are also eligible for the coupons, which can be bought at post offices or linked to digital payment options Stimulus coupons for Taiwanese and foreign spouses with residency permits can be ordered starting on July 1 and can be used from July 15 to Dec. 31, the Executive Yuan said yesterday. Aimed at boosting domestic spending, the coupons worth NT$3,000 (US$100.04) are to cost NT$1,000. “For our consumers, this is a very good deal as they get three times as much value for their money,” Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told a news conference in Taipei. While the coupons are to have a wide range of uses, including at department stores, restaurants, book stores, night markets, beauty and hair salons, hotels, and to