Written by Kevin Chaissan
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of traveling to Richard’s Bay, South Africa, to bring on a new Kiva Field Partner. I was very excited about this trip, as it was the first new partner I have trained and brought on board to Kiva. What was even more exciting, though, was that Kiva was expanding to a new country - South Africa!
While people may view South Africa as the most developed country in Africa, there remains a very large number of impoverished people. Official unemployment stands at just over 25%, and outside of the main cities lies a large percentage of the population living in underdeveloped rural areas. As WDB’s CEO, Ben Nkuna, told me, the poor people in South Africa primarily reside in a belt running through the interior of the country, having been pushed inland from the coast. This is the area where WDB focuses their attention, hoping to improve the living situations of thousands of South African women.
While WDB is headquartered in Nelspruit, in the northeastern part of the country, they chose to pilot this new partnership with Kiva in Richard’s Bay. Located about two hours east of Durban, WDB has 7 branch offices spread throughout the area where they work with thousands of poor women in primarily rural areas. Kiva is extremely excited about this new partnership and the impact it will have on helping WDB expand their services even further from their already large base of around 60,000 clients. As WDB’s first international funder, we all hope to increase the exposure for this organization and highlight the work they are doing to the world.
What excited me most about this visit was the sheer enthusiasm everyone at WDB had for this new partnership. Mr. Nkuna, as well as many other management personnel, made the trip to Richard’s Bay for the week of training so that everyone, from loan officers to the CEO, all had a solid understanding of Kiva practices and policies.Throughout the week I was continually impressed with how engaged everyone was, the questions they posed, and their desire to begin as soon as possible. This attitude was a joy to see, and it was clearly evident in the following week as they posted their first loan on Kiva!
While she was not present during the week, we received a letter from the Chair of WDB’s Board, sharing her excitement:
"We are delighted that Kiva has started a working relationship with WDB. We are very honored to be the first Microfinance Institution in South Africa to partner with Kiva, and WDB will make sure that this relationship assists our clients (Poor Women mostly in rural areas) to improve their livelihoods. The essence of this partnership is that funding support will assist WDB to reach out to many more potential beneficiaries in the country.
We strongly believe that our operational team is also ecstatic about this initiative and are prepared to deliver the products and see the improvements of living conditions of poor rural South African women.
We want to encourage all women out there to make use of this loan facility, invest in business, and ensure that their lives are changing for the better.
We would also like to express our gratitude to Kiva for choosing WDB as their Partner."