As reported in the past MYC4.com has serious operational problems making it an investment with negative ROI for the vast majority of lenders. MYC4 has taken measures to recover as much of the outstanding loan amounts as possible, but progress is very slow.
This is a quick update on the situation
Kenya / Provider Ebony: The receivership has been in place for two months now, but has recovered only a small amount. The court case against Ebony Capital Ltd. is ongoing still awaiting a ruling. (see details)
Ivory Coast / Former providers Ivoire Credit and Notre Nation The responsibility for collecting these loans has been turned over to TRIUM International in September 2009. In the 5 months since then TRIUM International collected 17,848 Euro. TRIUM has asked to be relieved of the contract as soon as possible (see details)
Senegal / Provider Birima Repayments have been delayed. Birima cites technical problems and a bad economic situation in Senegal.
Uganda / Provider FED/CMC FED seems to have the worst status. MYC4 reports that collections nearly stopped due to a lack of staff and working capital. Borrowers are said towithhold repayments in speculation on a collapse of FED/CMC. MYC4 has defined 10 action steps for March and April. (see details)
Based on her experience in founding SEM Fund, Kiva’s oldest filed partner in Senegal, Julia Kurnia believes there is a vast untapped potential for p2p lending in microfinance.
To tap it she launched Zidisha.org, a non-profit that makes two changes in the process. First: There are no intermediaries. Lenders lend directly to computer literate entrepreneurs in Africa (currently Senegal and Kenya). Second: Only entrepreneurs with a credit history that have in the past paid back a loan by a bank or a financial institution successfully are eligible (this is verified).
Julia Kurnia told P2P-Banking.com:
Lending through local intermediary microfinance organizations creates high costs for borrowers (Kiva borrowers pay an average of 35.25% in interest to Kiva field partners, according to the Kiva website statistics). Outsourcing loan management to local intermediaries also puts P2P platforms at risk of pyramid schemes, in which unscrupulous partners use funds disbursed for new loans to mask embezzlement of repayments due to lenders. Kiva and MyC4 did very well when they operated at small scale, but as time passed and they added large numbers of partners, the cost of controlling intermediary fraud ballooned and may make their models unsustainable at a large scale.
Lenders at Zidisha upload money via Paypal (fees apply) and then can browse listings, written by the entrepreneurs themselves. Lenders do get paid interest, whoever “the principal purpose of Zidisha’s lenders in funding loans is to help finance these entrepreneurs, and not to make a profitable investment.” according to the FAQ. During bidding lenders can underbid each other with the result of the entrepreneur profiting from a sinking interest rate.
I am looking forward to use Zidisha. I plan to publish an interview with Julia Kurnia next week. If you have a question you want asked you are invited to email it to me or post it as comment below.
MyC4.com has a great concept with an ambitious goal: ‘Let’s end poverty by 2015’. Lenders can invest in African businesses of small entrepreneurs. MyC4 gained a lot of positive media coverage and received awards.
The realization of this concept is an enormous task, facing many hurdles. Since MyC4 is transparent and lenders earn interest problems do impact the user experience. Current user discussions deal with issues like defaults, currency risks, transaction costs, pending time, information accuracy and communication.
While I am sure that Kiva has to overcome similar problems, the difference is that on Kiva these issues are more dealt with in the background and the average user is not or less aware of them.
Like Kiva, MyC4 partners with local microfinance institutions (called ‘providers’ on MyC4 – see overview of provider results) that screen loan applicants. These partners are trying hard to validate the business of the applicant as good as possible, but conditions and environment complicate the task.
Furthermore the partners are on a learning curve – a process that MyC4 supports. Data accuracy of the loan details listed by the provider sometimes is questionable – this was one of the causes MyC4 cancelled some Ivory Coast loans earlier.
Example: an active listing that raises questions
Alima Thiam, retail shopkeeper in Senegal, seeks a 13,873 Euro loan.
: About : Married and a mother of 2 children, Alima has been trading items for 8 years. Her business grew so fast that in April 2007, she was able to open her first store. Her business is still growing at a fast pace and she needs additional working capital to increase her inventory of goods and add new items.
Objective of the opportunity: With a loan of €13873, Alima seeks to increase her stock provided that it would guarantee more interesting sales. She wants to buy her goods early to avoid paying higher prices, hence keeping her costs down. She will use the increased margin to introduce new items.
The information provided in the listing raises the following plausibility questions:
The relation of the loan amount to the yearly income seems very high
The listed collateral – an Audi 80 – is given with a value of 9,711 Euro. This seems a very high value for a very old car model. (independent of issues whether the collateral could really be secured in case of default)
The location pictured does not look like it is in proportion to the amount of goods that could be bought for the loan value.
What reasons could have caused possible inaccuracy of information in this loan listing?
Githa Kurdahl, doing an internship with Ivoire Credit has described her findings regarding inaccurate descriptions in an excellent post on Oct. 21st. In summary she pointed out the following causes:
mistakes due to manual calculations
mistakes in translation
lack of business records
mismatch between European and African business context.
MyC4 has just published a quarterly magazine to accompany it's website. The first issue of Change has 20 pages, looks stylish and has lots of information (e.g. Senegal will be the next market, where loans are available to borrowers starting in June). Here is what MyC4 says about it's magazine:
We have just released the very first issue of CHANGE – the magazine that comes all way around MyC4: Vision, business model, partners, supporters, etc.