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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 backers 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 administrative costs.

Zidisha projects are more cost-efficient, allowing borrowers to keep more of the income earned from the loan investment. We also give backers 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.

Finally, entrepreneurs themselves join backers in funding other entrepreneurs with the proceeds they earn from their projects via the Pay It Forward program (see below).

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 backers. Our first-of-its-kind direct crowdfunding 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.

Instead of repaying lenders, Zidisha entrepreneurs commit to reinvesting the amount raised in other entrepreneurs on the platform once their project is completed. This allows funds to recycle into new projects as with traditional microlending programs, while giving entrepreneurs a more direct stake in the process and the chance to give back to others in the community.

Zidisha projects do not carry interest. Instead, members make Pay It Forward contributions to fund other member projects. Members who raise projects also pay a service fee of 5% of the loan amount, to cover the cost of transferring and administering the project.

If you do not have a recommendation from a current member, then a one-time membership fee of $10.00 is requested before you begin to fundraise. This fee is refundable if you do not end up raising loans.

At the end of each loan, members are given the option to contribute an extra Pay It Forward amount to fund loans for other members in the community.

Entrepreneurs find us! Anyone who lives in a country serviced by Zidisha may apply to raise a project — 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 funding application. Applicants must also provide the contact information of colleagues who can provide a recommendation for them. The local banks and payment services that process Zidisha fund disbursements also check the loan recipients’ national identity cards.

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 participants will recover their funds and we do not offer a financial return on the projects.

In Kenya, payment 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 Paystack and Flutterwave.

Entrepreneurs pay a small service fee on each project they raise through Zidisha in order to cover the money transfer and administrative costs incurred.

We don’t charge any service fee to backers. 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! Backers and entrepreneurs can message each other back and forth to send updates about the impact of the project or even simple notes of thanks or inspiration. Entrepreneur stories, project 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 foreign language postings and edit project titles for clarity, we do not otherwise modify entrepreneurs' content or write it on their behalf.

No, the amount to be repaid is fixed in local currency at the time entrepreneurs create a project proposal. Exchange rates can fluctuate during the course of the repayment period, causing the US Dollar equivalent value of the projects to increase or decrease.

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 project:

  • When entrepreneurs create a project application: the local currency amounts they request are converted to US Dollars, and the project amount remains fixed at that US Dollar value throughout the fundraising period until the project is disbursed.
  • At disbursement: project 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 entrepreneur's Pay It Forward account, where it is used to fund other projects on the platform.

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

Backer FAQs

When an entrepreneur posts a project application, he or she sets the amount he or she would like to raise, the description of the project, and the proposed schedule for reinvesting repayment of the amount raised in other projects on the platform. Backers can then fund any portion of the project, between $1 and the full amount requested.

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

Entrepreneurs are asked to share updates, photos and videos with their backers throughout the project period and upon repayment. In addition, the Your Impact page will track the follow-on projects funded by the entrepreneurs you backed, so that you can see your impact continue to grow over time.

You may view an example of a Pay It Forward project which has been repaid and used to fund new entrepreneurs here.

You may credit your account via PayPal, or with a credit or debit card. There is a 3.5% fee for both of these payment methods, to offset the fees charged by the payment processors and allow us to transfer 100% of your funds to the entrepreneur.

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

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

If a project 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 project proposal. If the entrepreneur does not accept the amount raised, then funds that had been contributed are returned to the backers.

Repayments for Pay It Forward projects are credited to the entrepreneur's Pay It Forward balance, which the entrepreneur then uses to fund other fundraising projects on the platform. Each time an entrepreneur you funded uses repayments to fund a new project, you will receive an email notification (unless you opt out) and the new project will be listed in the Your Impact page of your account.

The majority of Zidisha projects are repaid on time. That said, we cannot guarantee that each project will be repaid as scheduled. 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. If an entrepreneur is having difficulty in repaying, we work with him or her to establish a new repayment plan that is affordable.

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.

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.

Entrepreneur 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 almost 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. Please do not raise loans for businesses based on cigarettes or alcohol, or that promote deforestation or otherwise harm the environment.

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.

Loan amounts for first-time members usually range from $5 to $300, depending on the quality of your application and supporting documents. After that, the amounts you can borrow increase depending on your repayment performance and contributions to the community, up to a maximum of $10,000 per loan.

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 projects do not carry interest. Instead, members make Pay It Forward contributions to fund other member projects. Members who raise projects also pay a service fee of 5% of the loan amount, to cover the cost of transferring and administering the project.

If you do not have a recommendation from a current member, then a one-time membership fee of $10.00 is requested before you begin to fundraise. This fee is refundable if you do not end up raising loans.

At the end of each loan, members are given the option to contribute an extra Pay It Forward amount to fund loans for other members in the community.

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.

Use the Pay It Forward button in your project dashboard to make a payment, similarly to repaying a traditional loan. The amounts you contribute will go into your Pay It Forward balance which you can use to fund other members of your choice.

To fund another member, go to the Browse Projects page, select a project that displays the Pay It Forward tag, enter the desired amount and use the Fund button to contribute your funds to your chosen entrepreneur.

If you do not use the credit within one week of payment, we will allocate the unused credit to other Pay It Forward projects on your behalf.

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 make 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.

Each time you repay a loan or Pay It Forward project, you can choose to contribute an additional amount of your choice to fund other Pay It Forward entrepreneurs. Your next loan credit limit increases by the amount you choose to contribute plus a matching amount from Zidisha.

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.

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 use the Help page of your account to send our team a message at any time.