Slumdog Entrepreneurs

There is a tool that has helped not just one movie character )as portrayed in Slumdog Millionaire) but more than 100 million of the world's poorest people actually begin to escape the worst devastations of poverty. That opportunity is not a game show but microcredit-small loans to start or expand businesses like selling tortillas or cell phone time to their neighbors.

Jamii Bora, which means good families, is a Kenyan microfinance institution that has grown from lending money to 50 women beggars ten years ago to serving more than 200,000 members

One of those entrepreneurs is Joyce Wairimu. Wairimu was one of the 50 women beggars who started Jamii Bora with founder Ingrid Munro in 1999. Munro calls Wairimu one of the fast climbers out of poverty. How fast? In ten years Wairimu has built six businesses and employs 62 people.

Another of the fast climbers is Wilson Maina. Before Jamii Bora, Maina was a thief, one of the most wanted criminals in Mathare Valley slum. Starting with a loan of $20, Maina has built four businesses and a new life for himself and his family. Along the way, he has convinced hundreds of youth to get out of crime.

Munro didn't stop at proving microcredit to help the poorest slum dwellers. She decided to build a town with decent housing and business space for her entrepreneurs. "Every poor person's dream is to move out of the slums," Munro says, "not patch up the slums." That's exactly what happened when the first 246 families moved out of the slums and into the newly created Kaputiei town with nearly 1,800 families to follow. For the same monthly mortgage they had paid for their one-room shacks, each family now lives in a home with two bedrooms, a bath, a kitchen and a living room. This ultra sub-prime lending that works because in order to qualify for a mortgage the residents have to have successfully repaid three micro-business loans.

[Excerpt of an article by Sam Daley-Harris, Founder of the Microcredit Summit Campaign]

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