Charity Offers Beneficiaries A Hand Up
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Charity Offers Beneficiaries A Hand Up

Charity Offers Beneficiaries A Hand Up

New Forms of Philanthropy Offer Beneficiaries a “Hand up,” not just a “Handout”, says Justin Sykes.

Gulf Business

When we drop money into a “charity box,” the beneficiary is no doubt worthy. Our generosity provides a one-time gift of food, shelter or medicine for those in need, and offers temporary relief from what seems to be a never-ending struggle for sustenance.

But what if our donations could go further?

What if we could offer those in need the opportunity to provide for themselves rather than simply subsisting on the generosity of others? What if our donations helped someone develop a business or a skill–one that would help them provide for themselves and their family for years to come?

Millions of young people in the Arab world are hungry for employment. Many are poor, and support themselves only through difficult, badly-paid and often dangerous subsistence jobs. They find themselves in a hard-to-break cycle of poverty, longing for the simple freedoms that you and I enjoy every day. They dream of opportunity and a chance to support their families with businesses of their own.

But too often, a lack of reliable and affordable capital stands between these ambitious youth and the income-generating activities that build thriving, sustainable businesses.

This gap in the lending system is a chance to challenge our definition of charitable giving.

By reallocating a portion of our donations to programs that allow us to make small loans to individual entrepreneurs, we can be the spark that ignites economic growth in impoverished communities throughout the region. Through these “microlending” programs, we can help thousands of Arab youth achieve their goals, simply by modifying the way we give to include lending.

On-line platforms such as–the world’s largest microlending platform– are already doing this by helping pair entrepreneurs with generous benefactors looking to do more through charitable lending. These platforms allow people who give to see how their donations directly affect the lives of the people they give to.

Since its inception in 2005, a growing global community of more than 750,000 lenders has provided more than $320 million in loans to 800,000 borrowers worldwide. Kiva does not charge interest to field partners distributing their loans, and does not provide interest to lenders. With a 98.9% repayment rate, the money you lend is truly a loan that comes back to you.

Thanks to a partnership between Kiva and Silatech, a Qatar-based social initiative that works to provide employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for young Arabs, this new approach is now available in the Arab World. Through a dedicated channel,, you can go online today, and lend directly to young, Arab entrepreneurs starting from the equivalent of only US$25.

And as your loan is paid back, you have the option to re-loan it again and again to other worthy entrepreneurs.

The entire process is transparent and accountable, and because repayments can be recycled back into the lending process, they can have an impact many times over.

Since its launch in March 2012, has already mobilized more than $1 million from over 20,000 lenders to fully fund the needs of over 750 youth-run businesses in the region.

While this is a good start, we can do much more.

The concept of “crowdfunded” micro loans in the Arab World is relatively new. Despite the growing number of Arabic e-commerce sites, not one Arabic language social giving platform currently exists. This is a significant missed opportunity given the clear need amongst disadvantaged communities in the region, but also the significant giving power the Arab world has.

Each Ramadan alone, hundreds of millions of dollars are mobilized for charitable causes across the Arab world, including throughout the global Arab diaspora.

By getting Arabs online and giving through their computers and phones, huge efficiency and effectiveness gains can be achieved, making every dollar, riyal, dirham, pound or dinar go further and have greater impact.

Furthermore, by reconsidering the traditional definition of “charity” in the Arab world to include lending to those who cannot access bank loans, we offer a philanthropic experience that can be far more enriching and interactive than more customary methods of giving. We can actually see the impact that our donations are making, and then repeat the experience to change many more lives.

If widely adopted by the Arab world, such technology-based methods of giving could mobilize millionspotentially billionsof dollars to positively change the lives of young people, their families and communities.

So how can we get to that point?

Organizations like Silatech can champion this new approach, mobilizing greater awareness and investment, but we cannot do it alone. To develop these innovative new platforms for social giving, investors, technology and media leaders, and grassroots organizations must all play a major role.

Imagine a future where, through an Arabic language web platform, hundreds of thousands of individuals across the region and beyond can provide those in need with something far more valuable than a one-time donation of food or clothing. We’ll be offering Arab youth the opportunity to provide for themselves–a gift that’s truly thinking outside “the box.”


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