Two young entrepreneurs have started a microcredit venture to provide loans to the 200 million in China who are still in poverty. Wokai or "I Start" has a website that features peer-to-peer lending similar to Kiva.
From MSNBC, reporter Ed Flanagan tells us more about microcredit venture. A video with one it's founders is featured after the jump.
Founded eight months ago by 25-year-olds, Casey Wilson and Courtney McColgan, Wokai is the convergence of the pair’s shared interest in economic development and China. The pair, who met in a Chinese language program at Beijing’s Tsinghua University in 2006, created a microfinance program to help provide assistance to some of China’s estimated 228 million people who have no access to basic financial services.
Wilson and McColgan created a Web site that they’ve coined "Facebook for Farmers" – it features many of the core characteristics of Web 2.0: social networking, blogging and interactive media.
Functioning similarly to the one of the more established microfinance sites, Kiva.org, Wokai’s online system of peer-to-peer loans allows potential lenders to scan the profiles of pre-screened rural Chinese borrowers and decide for themselves who they want to loan money to.
The loans are small – the average loans is around $300 – and are mostly used by farmers to invest in simple business improvements such as adding additional livestock or buying new products for dry goods stores.
To attract loans and help develop the organization, Wokai has enlisted an army of young volunteers both in the United States and China. They have assisted in everything from website development to working directly with field partners in China to screen potential borrowers. Meanwhile, member chapters in San Francisco, Seattle and New York help drive awareness and donations through localized fund raising events.