In Uganda, capital is scarce and interest rates are as a result high. This is a problem for microfinance institutions (MFIs) such as CML that are not funded by international NGOs (non-government organizations). Without access to inexpensive capital sources, MFIs have to either increase the interest rates charged to their borrowers or cut down on their loans outstanding. High interest rates and underdeveloped market for financial services leaves most Ugandan small scale businesses with no access to capital. Without capital and sufficient business knowhow, the entrepreneurs cannot develop into their full potential.
Without capital and sufficient business knowhow, the entrepreneurs cannot develop into their full potential.
In Europe and the US, there is instead an excess of capital and interest rates are low. Especially in many European countries, savings rates are virtually zero. Simultaneously, many people in the rich European countries or US are aware of their beneficial position and donate large amounts to charity directed to development countries. Also among companies, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has increased in importance and social investments are becoming popular.
The founders of Lenders Without Borders realized that there was a win win-situation if individuals and companies with an excess of capital could be connected to the small scale Ugandan business owners in need of capital to expand their businesses.
Moses Nsereko Kayongo, founder of CML, came up with the idea for Lenders Without Borders (LWB) in 2015. At that time, CML had recently applied for joining Kiva, a US-based NGO that runs a platform similar to LWB. However, the application was turned down since CML did not meet the Kiva standards, mainly because the size of the company was too small.
Since the need for capital is even larger for smaller companies such as CML, Moses decided to instead create his own platform. The platform he had in mind should differ from Kiva since it was to be created from the bottom – the very small microfinance institution – and up, without out help from international NGOs. He thought this would be an advantage since the platform then would be created closer to the small scale business owners that it was intended to serve and thereby better adjusted to their needs.
Moses discussed the concept with his network of current and former international volunteers. Among them were Sandra Attermo and Bill Batko who helped in developing the concept further. In autumn 2017, the idea was realized and the LWB website launched. Moses and Sandra also decided that it was better to separate CML from LWB. Thus, since April 18, 2016, LWB is registered as a Ugandan company owned by Sandra. CML and LWB still work tightly as partners and the aim is that LWB should collaborate with more MFIs in the future.