James Allman-Gulino

Fellows Blog Posts by James Allman-Gulino

Sep 21, 2010 UG Uganda

By James Allman-Gulino, KF11 Uganda

I’ve now been in Uganda for 5 months, and today is the last day of my Kiva Fellowship.  Naturally the fellowship has had its ups and downs, but on the whole I’ve had a fantastic experience here working with Kiva, BRAC Uganda, and MCDT SACCO.  I feel very privileged to have gotten the chance to see how microfinance really works on the ground, and how it impacts the lives of borrowers.  Along the way I’ve amassed a few thoughts about my time here, Kiva’s operations, and microfinance in general, which I’ve...

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Sep 6, 2010 UG Uganda

By James Allman-Gulino, KF11 Uganda

Do microfinance loans actually improve the lives of borrowers? This is an enormous question, and one that’s notoriously difficult to measure.  In an earlier post on social performance, I mentioned some of the issues involved with trying to obtain such a metric (chiefly: it’s expensive, it may ignore hard-to-measure social benefits of borrowing, and it’s tough to isolate microfinance loans as the sole reason a borrower’s income increases/decreases).  But despite those challenges, if microfinance is to be...

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Aug 19, 2010 UG Uganda

By James Allman-Gulino, KF11 Uganda

For the regular visitors to the Kiva Fellows blog, I’m sure you have a good idea of how microfinance works and how Kiva fits in to the bigger picture.  However, newer visitors may be less familiar with some of the basic characteristics of the field.  With that in mind, I’ve created a “top 10” list of (hopefully) helpful facts about microfinance and Kiva’s operations:

1. Microfinance delivers financial services to poor individuals

Microfinance specifically offers services to those who don’t have adequate...

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Aug 4, 2010 UG Uganda

By James Allman-Gulino, KF11 Uganda

One of the neat things about my work as a Kiva Fellow has been the interest in microfinance it prompts for many of the local Ugandans I interact with.  I often talk about my work with BRAC Uganda and MCDT SACCO with my neighbors, the boda-boda drivers who take me to work, and a few local food vendors who I’ve gotten to know relatively well.  Though these people understand the basic concept of microfinance, they still view it as something of an aid intervention, whereby you have to be poor and actually...

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Jul 13, 2010 UG Uganda

By James Allman-Gulino, KF11 Uganda

I have now started the phase in my Kiva Fellowship when I will be working with MCDT SACCO, a relatively small MFI located in Kampala, Uganda.  MCDT lends to clients based on the Grameen Bank methodology – to take out loans, borrowers form groups that collectively guarantee each member’s loan.  If one member misses a repayment or defaults, the other members of the group are responsible for that individual’s loan amount.  MCDT’s clients come primarily from the peri-urban areas surrounding Kampala city, and are all...

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Jun 29, 2010 UG Uganda

By James Allman-Gulino, KF11 Uganda

One of the newer fields that’s getting more attention within microfinance is trying to measure microfinance institutions’ (MFIs) social performance, which broadly is an indication of how well an MFI meets the social goals outlined in its mission and vision.  Social performance is reflected in a wide range of indicators, including:

  • an MFI’s policies towards employees, like providing health care or maternity leave;
  • to what degree an MFI targets the poorest of the poor for financial services;
  • ...
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Jun 13, 2010 UG Uganda

By James Allman-Gulino, KF11 Uganda

Starting this coming week, BRAC Uganda will begin posting a new loan product onto the Kiva website.  This new product will fund borrowers in BRAC Uganda’s Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) program, and gives Kiva lenders the chance to invest in an exciting new sector within microfinance.

These new ELA loans are unique because the borrowers are actually adolescents, usually young women aged 16-21 who have dropped out of or never attended school.  Many of these borrowers are too young...

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Jun 7, 2010 UG Uganda

By James Allman-Gulino, KF11 Uganda

Kiva funds are a great thing for microfinance institutions (MFIs) operating overseas because they come in the form of “no-interest” loans.  Unlike traditional sources of financial capital like large banks, which may charge upwards of 10% on their loans, Kiva is able to loan funds at 0% thanks to:

  • Kiva lenders’ willingness to invest without an expected financial return, but simply the social return of empowering entrepreneurs in the developing world
  • Kiva lenders’ willingness to make additional...
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May 24, 2010 UG Uganda

By James Allman-Gulino, KF11 Uganda

Some of the best work that microfinance can do is in post-conflict regions, particularly those with internally displaced persons (IDPs).  These people may have been forcibly relocated from their homes and made to stay in makeshift camps because violence was too severe around their villages, as was the case in Northern Uganda during the government’s fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).   The conflict with the LRA had been off-and-on for over twenty years, with the LRA committing many atrocities against...

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May 9, 2010 UG Uganda

By James Allman-Gulino, KF11 Uganda

It’s now a little more than a week into my Kiva fellowship, and I’ve settled into my work at BRAC Uganda and gotten well-acquainted with Kampala.  The city is a great place – it’s bustling and full of energy, and the populace is very welcoming and outgoing.  Kampala and Uganda in general also enjoys a fantastic climate, and offers a huge variety of great produce – bananas, avocados, cassava, you name it.

But an area that Kampala doesn’t do so well in is public infrastructure.  Electricity and internet...

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