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African Businesses Turn to Online Crowdfunding

Entrepreneur Marion Moon has turned to online crowdfunding to get her organic fertilizer company off the ground. Feb. 10, 2015. (Hilary Heuler / VOA News)
Entrepreneur Marion Moon has turned to online crowdfunding to get her organic fertilizer company off the ground. Feb. 10, 2015. (Hilary Heuler / VOA News)
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Crowdfunding is a way to raise money from a large number of people over the Internet to support a project. Crowdfunding has become common in many Western countries. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are two crowdfunding websites. Such sites have helped launch Western-operated projects. Yet crowdfunding websites are almost unknown in Africa.

Recently, the World Bank launched a program to help business owners in Kenya make use of crowdfunding. The bank’s Kenya Climate Innovation Center provides crowdfunding mentorship programs for small companies.

A World Bank study found crowdfunding could have a major effect in the developing world. But to raise money through websites, business owners need specific skills.

Edward Mungai works at the Kenya Climate Innovation Center in Nairobi. He says business owners need to be well connected to both individuals and organizations. He says they also need to know how to show their ability to use the money they collect. Finally, he says, they should show how their business would help society.

Three businesses in the program have launched campaigns. One of them is Wanda Organic, an organic fertilizer business. Marion Moon started Wanda Organic three years ago. Like many small African entrepreneurs, Ms. Moon found it hard to finance her business.

So, Ms. Moon says, she decided to try something unusual: online crowdfunding. She says banks would not finance her business in the early days. She had to depend on friends and family to keep her business going.

In some ways, Ms. Moon says, crowdfunding is similar to the more traditional ways Kenyans raise money from their communities.

“I think the word ‘crowdfunding’ is new to people. But the idea or the principle of everybody putting in a little bit to help a project, I do not think that is new at all. So I think one of the things we maybe could have done better is how we linked what people are used to, to this word ‘crowdfunding.’”

Edward Mungai says getting local support for crowdfunding has not been easy. He says most of the money is still coming from Westerners, and not from Kenya.

“Unfortunately, the people who are being reached, they cannot be able to contribute because there is no infrastructure to contribute.”

He adds that most Kenyans do not have credit cards. Marion Moon notes that those who do have credit cards are worried about online security.

Her Wanda Organic is halfway through its campaign. The company has only raised around six percent of its $45,000 goal.

She has one month left to raise enough money to build storage centers for her fertilizer. The campaign has been slow, she says, but she has not lost hope.

I’m Jim Tedder.

Reporter Hilary Heuler reported this story from Nairobi. Ashley Thompson wrote it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

crowdfundingn. raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, often through websites on the Internet.

mentorshipn. a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.

organicadj. grown or made without the use of man-made chemicals

entrepreneurn. a person who launches a business and is willing to risk losses in order to make money