November 08, 2007

It's A Small, Small, Small, Small World

SOME YEARS AGO, as part of my day job, I had the opportunity to interview Dr Niyi Osundare, an acclaimed Nigerian poet and professor of English at the University of New Orleans. Unfortunately, it was not under the best of circumstances, for Dr Osundare was temporarily staying in New England following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. After I had written about Dr Osundare's ordeal, he got in touch with me and thanked me for the article -- and mentioned that a friend of his in Ethiopia had seen the story on-line!

This, as one might expect, caused me to about fall out of my chair. It's one thing for people you know to mention they've seen your work, but the idea of people halfway around the world reading it is an entirely different kettle of fish. It's an amazing feeling, and when I heard the story from Dr Osundare, it was very much proof to me that globalization is here, and here to stay.

I had another experience like this just tonight.

As Loyal Rant Readers may recall, I have been a supporter of a fantastic Web site called Kiva, which allows donors in the developed world to loan capital to worthy businesspeople in the developing world. I am proud to report tonight that one of the two loans I made to small operations in Mexico has just been paid back in full. The borrower, a widow who operates a shoe store in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, was able to use my cash and that of many other donors to purchase inventory for her small shop, which she was in the process of expanding. (My other loan, made to a widow who operates a small grocery in Cd. Acuña, Coahuila, is in the process of being paid back and is on-schedule).

Anyway, with the loan repaid, it meant my $25 share of it was also repaid. That left me searching for a new business for which I could act as a Tiny International Financier. My original hope had been to invest again in Mexico, as I am a strong believer that trade between our two nations will lift everyone's boat. However, I couldn't find a business in Mexico to invest in -- a function, perhaps, of the site's recent popularity. (There were only two loans available, for construction projects, and while these are certainly worthy endeavors I prefer to focus on small business).

So on a lark I expanded my search preference from "North America" to "All" and stumbled across a couple in Azerbaijan who operate a cattle-breeding business. They had asked for the sum of $900 to buy a cow. This sure seemed like a winner to me, as one cow -- aside from producing milk or eventually being used as beef -- can also produce calves, and they can go forth and multiply, and thus wealth is created. But what really sealed the deal was where the borrowers were from: the small city of Beyleqan near the Iranian border.

You see, several months ago I interviewed Mr Ayaz Guliyev, the chief executive of the Ashikhli Credit Union, located in -- guess where -- Beyleqan. Fortunately, I was able to meet Mr Guliyev and several of his Azeri counterparts in happier circumstances -- they were touring New England to see how credit unions operated in the United States. It was a great interview and it was pretty cool to learn from Mr Guliyev and his counterparts about the state of business in Azerbaijan. So having that "connection," if you will -- well, it made the decision to invest that $25 pretty easy for me. It would be pretty cool if some of my loan money, through the normal course of commerce and business, were to eventually end up in Mr Guliyev's operation.

The long and short of it, though, was that this again reinforced my feeling that globalization is here, and here to stay. We'll see how this latest venture turns out but I am confident in its success -- and confident my small investment will help the couple in question build a better life. For more information about Kiva, visit here.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at November 8, 2007 09:44 PM | TrackBack
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