Projects Funded

Amount Lent

Total Members

Quick Facts About Zidisha

Quick Facts

General FAQs

"Zidisha" is the Swahili word for "grow" or "expand", as in a business or a quality such as freedom or prosperity.

Zidisha is the first online microlending community that directly connects lenders and entrepreneurs — without any intermediaries. Unlike more mainstream microloan websites that use local intermediary organizations, Zidisha offers a direct person-to-person connection.

Why is direct better? Because loans managed by local intermediary organizations charge high interest rates (often above 40%) to the entrepreneurs to cover their own administrative costs.

Zidisha loans are more cost-efficient, allowing borrowers to keep more of the income earned from the loan investment. We also give lenders and entrepreneurs the opportunity to communicate with each other directly — so you can see everyone’s stories unfold right before your eyes and experience it with them from the other side of the world.

Zidisha entrepreneurs are located in low-income countries where small business loans are often unavailable, or carry expensive interest rates along with collateral requirements. Zidisha offers an easy, accessible alternative that allows the entrepreneurs to get business expansion loans on flexible terms and at a cost they can easily afford. The low cost allows entrepreneurs to keep a majority of their profits and use them to invest back into their businesses or to support their families.

Zidisha's direct person-to-person connection results in lower cost for the entrepreneurs, and a more transparent and interesting experience for lenders. Our first-of-its-kind direct lending platform ensures that the profits go to the entrepreneurs (no cut of it goes to a bank or other intermediary). And the direct dialogue that takes place every day between lenders and entrepreneurs in our community maximizes transparency - and even builds friendships.

Zidisha takes care of each individual loan disbursement and repayment collection via the internet, so that management of Zidisha funds does not need to be outsourced to intermediary parties. Loan applications and progress updates are posted on the website by the entrepreneurs themselves. This allows our lending service to be provided independently of local intermediaries.

No. Zidisha does not keep any office or employ any paid staff in entrepreneur countries. Instead, we keep the cost of microlending low by providing all of our services over the internet. However, we are lucky to have experienced entrepreneurs that serve as Volunteer Mentors and monitor and assist fellow entrepreneurs on a volunteer basis — as well as international interns that can also visit entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs find us! Anyone who lives in a country serviced by Zidisha may apply to raise a loan — and potential entrepreneurs themselves take the initiative to apply. The majority of Zidisha applicants find us by word of mouth, as current members recommend Zidisha to others in their communities. Entrepreneurs also find us through web searches, blogs, or Facebook posts.

Entrepreneurs who apply to join Zidisha must provide their precise residential address, telephone number, and national identity number before we allow them to post a loan application. We also require them to verify their online identity by linking an active personal Facebook account to their Zidisha account. Applicants must also provide personal references and the contact information for a local community leader (like a school principal or leader of a place of worship) who can provide a recommendation for them. The local banks and payment services that process Zidisha loan disbursements also check the loan recipients’ national identity cards.

No. Zidisha is not a bank or credit bureau, does not offer any guarantee of the accuracy of information presented by entrepreneurs, and does not conduct any assessment of the incomes, debt levels, or credit-worthiness of entrepreneurs. It is up to the lenders to determine if a proposed business venture is viable and worthy of being funded.

Zidisha loans do not carry interest. Borrowers pay a service fee of 5% of the loan amount, to cover the cost of transferring and administering the loan.

Loans also carry a credit risk payment, which is used for reimbursing lenders in the event of default. The credit risk payment decreases as you build a history of on-time repayments.

A one-time premium membership payment of $10.00 may be required in order to access higher credit limits.

No. Zidisha is a platform for philanthropy. Our organization is responsible only for maintaining the Zidisha website as a platform for the transactions that take place between its members. Accordingly, we do not make any representation or promise that lenders will recover their funds and we do not offer a financial return on the loans.

In Kenya, loan disbursement and repayment transactions are conducted via M-PESA, a money transfer service that allows Kenyans to receive and send cash via mobile phone messaging. In Zambia, funds are transferred via a similar mobile phone payment service called MTN Mobile Money. In Ghana and Nigeria, funds are sent electronically to a mobile money or bank account of the member's choice using local digital payment services.

Entrepreneurs pay a 5% service fee on each loan they take out through Zidisha in order to cover the money transfer and administrative costs incurred as a result of their loan.

We don’t charge any service fee to lenders. But, we do ask that those who participate contribute what they can as a tip to support our growth. (And we’re incredibly thankful when they do!)

Yes! Lenders and entrepreneurs can message each other back and forth to send updates about the impact of the loan or even simple notes of thanks or inspiration. Entrepreneur stories, loan applications and project updates are written personally by the entrepreneurs themselves, not by us or by partner organizations. Although we may provide English translations of entrepreneur postings and edit project titles for clarity, we do not otherwise modify entrepreneurs' content or write it on their behalf.

Lenders assume currency risk at Zidisha. The loan amounts that entrepreneurs are obligated to repay are fixed in local currency upon disbursement. Exchange rates can fluctuate during the course of the repayment period, causing the US Dollar value of the loans to increase or decrease — leading to gains or losses in US Dollar terms for lenders. Zidisha does not provide protection against currency risk, but also does not restrict lenders' ability to gain when the US Dollar increases in value against local currencies.

Tip: Since exchange rate fluctuations often go both ways for multiple currencies during the same time period, we suggest spreading lending activity across multiple countries to help hedge against currency risk.

The exchange rates applied to all Zidisha transactions are the exchange rates that were applied to our most recent transfer of US dollars to each borrower country. Here’s a breakdown of how conversion rates work throughout the life of a Zidisha loan:

  • When entrepreneurs create a loan application: the local currency amounts they request are converted to US Dollars, and the loan amount remains fixed at that US Dollar value throughout the fundraising period until the loan is disbursed.
  • At disbursement: loan amounts are fixed in local currency, so that entrepreneurs' repayment obligations are not affected by exchange rate fluctuations.
  • Each time an entrepreneur makes a repayment: the amount received in local currency is converted to US Dollars at the exchange rate in effect at the time the repayment is received. The resulting US Dollar value of the repayment is then credited to the lenders who funded the loan.

We currently offer loans to residents of Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria or Zambia.

We have adopted the following Code of Ethics, to which everyone who works with Zidisha must adhere.

1. We will treat every applicant and client with courtesy and respect, and will serve them as timely and conveniently as possible. We will provide every client with a channel of communications through which they can give feedback on service quality, and will do our utmost to respond timely and effectively to any client complaints.

2. We will provide all applicants and clients with complete and understandable information regarding the cost of our loans and terms of repayment.

3. We will do our utmost to avoid causing over-indebtedness by doing our best to ensure that those who raise loans through our platform do not hold unsustainable debt, by limiting loan amounts based on past repayment history, and by verifying proposed repayment schedules with clients before their loan applications are posted for funding.

4. We will do our utmost to ensure that the business endeavors financed with our loans do not become a vehicle for child labor, or any other abusive or illegal practice.

5. We will strive to prevent abuse of our lending platform through energetic pursuit of willful defaulters. At the same time, we will treat all clients regardless of repayment status with courtesy and respect, and will not deprive them of their basic means of livelihood in order to repay a loan. Acceptable repayment collection practices include reminders, mediation involving local community leaders, and judicial process. Unacceptable repayment collection practices include abusive language, threats, harassment of entrepreneurs at their place of work or worship, forcible entry to homes, and seizing property without court order or in violation of the law.

6. We will protect client information from those not legally authorized to see it.

7. We will price our services at fair rates, with fees set at levels just sufficient to ensure the sustainability and growth of our organization.

8. We will avoid conflicts of interest by recusing ourselves of any involvement in organizational decisions that may result in personal benefits to ourselves or to our family members.

9. We will not accept payment or gifts of substantial value from applicants or clients.

10. Should a violation of any of these principles come to our attention, we will notify Zidisha management immediately. Management will ensure that violators of our Code of Ethics are sanctioned.

Lending FAQs

When an entrepreneur posts a loan application, he or she sets the amount he or she would like to raise, the weekly or monthly repayment installment amount he or she prefers, and the day of the week or month he or she would like to commit to making repayment installments. Lenders can then fund any portion of the loan, between $1 and the full amount requested.

When a loan application is funded, the entrepreneur must confirm his or her acceptance of the loan. Once that’s done, we disburse the loan to the entrepreneur in local currency.

The minimum amount per loan is one US Dollar, and the maximum is the full amount requested by the applicant.

If a loan is not fully funded by the expiration date, the entrepreneur may choose to accept any partial amount that has been raised, or to start over with a new loan proposal. If the entrepreneur does not accept the amount raised, then funds that had been contributed are returned to the lenders.

Lenders worldwide may credit their accounts instantly using a PayPal account, or with a credit or debit card via Stripe, a secure third-party payment service. There is a 3.5% fee for both of these payment methods, which matches the average transaction fees deducted by PayPal and Stripe.

We also offer the option to set up automated monthly transfers to lending accounts (via Stripe). Unlike one-time payments, monthly plans carry no transaction fee. They can be adjusted or canceled at any time.

Lenders with withdrawable lending accounts may request to withdraw any funds that are not outstanding with entrepreneurs at any time. Withdrawals are sent via PayPal.

No. Zidisha is a platform for philanthropy, not a replacement for traditional savings accounts or financial investments. Zidisha loans are highly risky, as our entrepreneurs often have unreliable income and reside in unstable parts of the world. For this reason, we do not recommend lending out funds you cannot afford to lose. We suggest that you treat Zidisha loans simply as a way to help others, and that you lend no more than you would normally be prepared to give away to charity.

The majority of Zidisha loans are repaid. That said, we cannot predict the repayment likelihood of Zidisha loans with certainty. Lending to low-income individuals in developing countries is inherently risky. Most Zidisha entrepreneurs do not have salaried employment, substantial savings, insurance or other safety nets, and illness or family emergencies can often make it difficult to repay loans as planned. For these reasons, we recommend spreading lending funds across multiple loans, and as always, do not lend out funds that you cannot afford to lose.

Loans posted after March 1, 2015 are covered by a default reimbursement plan, which is backed by the Zidisha Members Loan Fund into which entrepreneurs make security payments to offset the credit risk of their loans. If a loan that is backed by the Zidisha Members Loan Fund falls past due on scheduled repayments (by over 10 days, and $5 or the value of one repayment installment, whichever is less), a "Receive Early Repayment" option will display in lenders' Your Loans page, as long as: 1) funds are available in the Zidisha Members Loan Fund account and 2) the lender has received less than $1,000 in Zidisha Members Loan Fund payments (unless the lender's account is an Impact Investment lending account). This option, when selected, will transfer that lender's portion of the loan to the Zidisha Members Loan Fund account. In return, the lender will receive back the full amount he or she had contributed to the loan, minus any repayments already received.

Please note that the Members Loan Fund is intended simply as an aid to help lenders preserve the value of their lending funds over time, and is not a guarantee of repayment. The funds you lend at Zidisha are still subject to loss. As always, we recommend you treat lending as a philanthropic activity only, and never lend out funds that you cannot afford to lose.

No, Zidisha does not guarantee repayment of loans. We offer a simple default reimbursement service to help lenders preserve their lending funds, but we are not a financial institution and cannot guarantee that the reimbursement service will always have sufficient funds to cover loan losses in the future. Lenders fund loans at their own risk and out of the goodness of their hearts, with the understanding that repayment is not guaranteed. So we suggest that you treat lending through Zidisha a philanthropic activity — and as always, don’t lend out any funds that you cannot afford to lose.

Keep in mind that most entrepreneurs do not have home computers, and may be away from the internet for extended periods. If you are having difficulty communicating with an entrepreneur directly, we recommend posting a message on the profile page of the Volunteer Mentor or the inviting member listed in the entrepreneur's loan profile to request an update.

Each time Zidisha receives a repayment installment from an entrepreneur, your share of the amount received is credited to your lending account. You can then use the credit to finance new loans, or request a withdrawal of all or part of your balance (if you have a withdrawable lending account).

Your share of each loan repayment is equal to the percentage of the loan you financed. Please note: Since loan amounts are fixed in local currency, the exact dollar value of each repayment will depend on the current exchange rate when the repayment installment is made.

At the time of disbursement, the value of loan is fixed in local currency using the exchange rate in effect as of the date the loan is disbursed. When an entrepreneur makes a repayment, it is converted to US Dollars at the exchange rate in effect as of the date the repayment is received. The US Dollar value of each repayment is divided among the lenders who funded the loan, according to the percentage funded by each.

Most Zidisha entrepreneurs do not have salaried jobs, insurance, or substantial savings. Unfortunately, accidents, illness, and death happen much more frequently in developing countries than in wealthy countries. As a result, most Zidisha entrepreneurs’ incomes are erratic and vulnerable. At Zidisha, we try to be accommodating by allowing entrepreneurs to modify their scheduled repayments as necessary to adjust for fluctuations in their disposable income. Giving them the option to pay more when income is strong and steady—and less when money is scarce—gives entrepreneurs a buffer against financial shocks, and helps ensure that the loans do not take away from their basic livelihood.

Small business owners in developing countries can’t afford to take as much risk as entrepreneurs in wealthy countries. That’s because they don’t have the same social “safety nets” that can keep them from losing their households and basic resources.

So small business owners often protect their households from this risk by maintaining multiple revenue-generating activities at the same time, or by switching quickly from one activity to another in response to changes in the market or other circumstances. For this reason, it is common for Zidisha entrepreneurs to apply for and invest loans in more than one business — and to raise loans totally unrelated to their previous loans if needed.

We do our best to prevent repayment problems in the first place by making sure that credit amounts are commensurate with entrepreneurs' demonstrated credit-worthiness. Their track record of successful repayment qualifies them for access to increasing loan amounts.

However, entrepreneurs may experience disruptions in income due to unexpected circumstances, resulting in inability to make a loan repayment installment on the date it is due. When an entrepreneur misses a payment, we issue a courtesy reminder by email and text message to the entrepreneur's mobile phone within one week of the missed payment's due date. We do our best to get in touch with the entrepreneur, understand the circumstances that caused the missed payment, and agree to a reasonable repayment plan. If needed, we may request mediation from local contacts of the entrepreneur, such as the community leader who recommended the entrepreneur to Zidisha, family, or neighbors. As a last resort, we may opt to pursue legal action following local regulations in each country.

Zidisha adheres to the Smart Campaign's Client Protection Principles for fair and respectful recovery practices. Our repayment recovery methods include reminders, mediation involving the local community leaders and other contacts that referred entrepreneurs to Zidisha, and judicial process. We will never engage in harassment, abusive language, threats, or seizure of property without court order. We will also not deprive entrepreneurs of their basic means of livelihood in order to repay a loan.

Entrepreneurs may modify their installment amounts if unexpected expenses or loss of income prevent them from repaying as quickly as originally anticipated - or if they find they are able to repay more quickly than originally anticipated. Entrepreneurs may either reduce or increase installment amounts, but the installments may not be skipped entirely, and at least one repayment must be deposited between each installment amount modification.

First, we recommend setting up continuous relending of your repayments (via the Relending Preferences page) if you expect to be away for long. You can more than double the impact of your funds by continuously recycling repayments into new loans!

If you do not relend or withdraw your repayments within 60 days, we will relend them to new projects on your behalf, following any preferences you have indicated in the Relending Preferences page. (If you would like to undo the loans we made on your behalf and receive a refund, just send a message from the Help page and let us know.)

No. Only your display name, city and country, and photo (if you upload one) will be visible to the public, and no information not publicly displayed will be communicated to entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs may communicate with lenders only via the discussion section on each loan profile page.

Impact Investment lending accounts work like regular withdrawable lending accounts, with these differences:

  • You cannot withdraw funds from the account.
  • A portion of the 5% service fee paid by all Zidisha borrowers is credited to Impact Investment accounts, so their value can grow over time.
  • Impact Investment accounts include a Lending Fund Value page, which tracks changes in the value of the fund and its outstanding loan portfolio.
To convert your account to an Impact Investment account, select the Impact Investment account option in your Account Preferences page.

Borrowing FAQs

Zidisha loan applicants must fulfill the following eligibility criteria:

1. Be of good reputation and have the support of family, neighbors and a local community leader (such as a school principal or leader of a place of worship).

2. Not currently hold any overdue loans from other sources.

3. Have an active business or employment with sufficient income to ensure repayment of the loan in regular installments.

4. Have access to the Internet or a smartphone with the Zidisha app installed, and be able to fill out entrepreneur profile and application forms and respond to lender comments via the app or our website.

5. Be able and committed to posting frequent updates regarding use of the loan and progress of the business on the Zidisha website.

6. Reside in Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria or Zambia.

7. Be at least 18 years old.

You may take out a loan for any purpose, as long as the purpose is legal and ethical. Zidisha members have raised loans for business growth capital, professional tools, university tuition, home improvements, health care and more. If your loan will not be used for a revenue-generating investment, you should explain the source of income that will be used to make repayments in your loan application.

Zidisha loans are not financed by a bank or other organization. Instead, ordinary people from around the world visit the Zidisha website and choose loans to fund. When entrepreneurs repay the loans, repayments are sent to the individual lenders who financed the loans, and the repayments may then be reinvested in other Zidisha loans.

Lenders choose to fund loans for various reasons. Most often, lenders wish to help entrepreneurs succeed in growing their businesses. Through Zidisha, lenders get the chance to hear directly from the entrepreneur about how their loan funds have helped. They also get the opportunity to make a friend on the other side of the world and learn about daily life and culture in that country.

First-time members start with a small test loan to build creditworthiness. After that, the amounts you can borrow will increase with each loan that you repay on time, up to a maximum of $10,000 per loan.

Premium membership is an optional additional service that offers a way for new members to access larger loans faster. Members who choose this option pay a one-time fee and may then raise loans at an increased credit limit. Members who opt not to purchase premium membership start with smaller credit limits, and may build up their creditworthiness more gradually.

If you choose the optional expediting service, you can have your loan funded immediately. Otherwise, your loan will be presented to lenders for funding in our website. Loans normally take anywhere from one day to two weeks to be funded by lenders, depending on the amount you are raising and the quality of the photos and profile you have posted, and your previous on-time repayment history.

Once your loan has been funded and you confirm acceptance, we send your disbursement immediately. The disbursement may take anywhere from a few seconds to a few days to reach your account, depending on the type of payment service used (mobile money payments are generally quicker than bank transfers). As we are not always able to guarantee immediate disbursement, we do not recommend using Zidisha for time-sensitive emergency loans.

We are regretfully unable to guarantee funding of all loan applications. If your dashboard indicates that your loan application was not approved, we encourage you to wait for some time and try your loan application again later.

Zidisha loans do not carry interest. Borrowers pay a service fee of 5% of the loan amount, to cover the cost of transferring and administering the loan.

Loans also carry a credit risk payment, which is used for reimbursing lenders in the event of default. The credit risk payment decreases as you build a history of on-time repayments.

A one-time premium membership payment of $10.00 may be required in order to access higher credit limits.

Credit risk payments are credited to the Members Loan Fund. The Members Loan Fund is used to compensate lenders for any loans that default. The service fee is used to pay for the costs of administering the loan.

Our goal is always to enable as many trustworthy people as possible to raise as much as they usefully can. The fees help ensure that our lending program is financially sustainable, so that our members can continue to raise loans over the long term.

Once you have confirmed acceptance of your loan, your dashboard page or Your Loan screen will display the status of your disbursement. If payment has already been sent, the date, amount and account number to which it was sent will be displayed.

If your loan is displayed as disbursed but you did not receive it, please go to the Help screen and select the Disbursement Not Received option to send us a message. Our team will then work with the payment service to track down the payment.

Follow the instructions displayed in the Your Loan screen (if you are using the mobile app) or in the Repayment Instructions page (if you are using the website). We will also send repayment instructions to you by email when your loan is disbursed.

Repayments are made in weekly installments. You may choose your own preferred amount to repay each week, and your own preferred day of the week on which repayments will fall due.

Repayments received are posted on your loan profile page within three business days. If you sent a payment and it is not posted on your profile within three business days, please send a message from the Help page and include your payment amount, date and transaction ID number so that we may locate it.

Your on-time repayment score is the percentage of all weekly installments that have fallen due for all loans you have taken with Zidisha, which you paid on time. Note that payments are only counted once their due date has passed.

If you cannot pay the full amount due on the scheduled date, you must modify your installment in order to remain in good standing and avoid reductions in your credit limit. To do this, log in to your Zidisha account and use the Adjust Installment Amount page to propose a repayment amount that you can afford. You may reduce the amount due as necessary, but you cannot skip a scheduled installment entirely. Adjusting your installment will not affect your on-time repayment score as long as you honor the new repayment schedule. You may use the same page to increase installment amounts once you are able, so that the total repayment period is not increased any more than necessary.

Yes, you may repay your loan at any time. However, please note that some larger loans have a minimum holding period in order to qualify for an increase in credit limit.

Late repayments hurt lenders and other entrepreneurs, because they are deprived of funds that could be lent to other deserving entrepreneurs if they were repaid when due. Late repayments also damage your reputation and ability to earn confidence from lenders, who had trusted your commitment to make loan repayments on or before the date promised. This damaged trust may make it harder for you to fund new loans through Zidisha in the future.

You are responsible for managing your finances in a way that ensures you will be able to pay loan installments in full on the dates they are due. If unexpected circumstances make it impossible to deposit a payment in full when it is due, it is your responsibility to use the Adjust Installment Amount page in your Zidisha account to adjust the installment to an amount you can afford.

If you miss a scheduled payment, Zidisha will issue one courtesy reminder by text message to your mobile phone. If the payment still is not made, Zidisha will request mediation from members of your community. If mediation is not effective, Zidisha may determine that the loan is defaulted. The consequences of defaulting on a Zidisha loan include disqualification from funding any new loans in the future, reporting of the default to your national credit bureau, and legal prosecution resulting in confiscation of property, fines and other legal penalties.

Once your loan is fully repaid, you will be eligible to post a new loan application for funding on the Zidisha website. If lenders' experience is positive, they will likely be engaged and willing to lend to you again to support growth of your business. In this case you will likely find it possible to fund a larger loan easily in the future.

The most common reason is failing to repay loans or due installments on time. You can view a detailed explanation of how your credit limit was determined in the Current Credit Limit page of your account.

Each loan profile contains a discussion page, in which the entrepreneur as well as registered Zidisha lenders may post text messages and photos. Entrepreneurs and lenders may use this forum to ask and respond to questions, share information and news about the progress of the business and get to know one another. Lenders highly value the chance to communicate directly with entrepreneurs whose loans they have funded or are considering funding, and entrepreneurs are encouraged to post comments in the forum as often as possible.

A Volunteer Mentor is an experienced Zidisha member in good standing who volunteers his or her time to assist other members to interact with the Zidisha website and community. Volunteer Mentors receive credit limit increases commensurate with the repayment performance of the members who are assigned to them, but are not otherwise compensated for their services.

Zidisha does not authorize any person to collect money on its behalf. All payments to Zidisha should be deposited directly into the account listed in the Repayment Instructions page of your Zidisha member account.

If any person claims to be collecting payments on behalf of Zidisha, do not give it to them. Instead, please send an email with that person's name and telephone number (if known) to us by creating a support ticket in your account Help page. We will work with you to report the fraud to the local police.

We request that you do not invite or help non internet / smartphone users to join Zidisha, because we have learned with experience that it is very hard for individuals who do not personally use our website to thoroughly understand and participate successfully in our community over the long term.

Premium membership fees are refundable upon request as long as you have received less than four times the fee amount in loans.

All risk payments and Members Loan Fund payments for loans applied for before December 17, 2018 are refundable upon request at any time you do not have an outstanding loan or fundraising loan application. If you choose to receive a refund for these payments, your credit limit for future loans will be reduced commensurate with the amount you are withdrawing from the Members Loan Fund for your refund.

Risk payments for loans applied for on or after December 17, 2018 are not refundable.

You may contact the Volunteer Mentor whose phone number is displayed in your Zidisha account. You may also post questions and comments in our Member Forum to request a response from the Zidisha community. If you need direct assistance from Zidisha staff, you may use the Help page of your account to send us a message.