People in the UK can now lend money directly to individuals in Pakistan hoping to work their way out of poverty as the innovative micro-lending scheme, lendwithcare.org welcomes entrepreneurs from the Punjab region.

Lendwithcare.org is an initiative from international development charity CARE International UK and The Co-operative that lets individuals in the UK lend small amounts of money to entrepreneurs running their own businesses in poor communities around the world. Already operating in six developing countries, people in the UK will now be able to lend small amounts of money directly to entrepreneurs in Pakistan who want to start or grow their small business.

One in three people in Pakistan currently live on less than 30 pence day, and next year Pakistan will become the largest recipient of UK aid.

Those who want to give a ‘hand up rather than a hand out’ to self-starting entrepreneurs in Pakistan can lend from as little as £15. The entrepreneur uses the loan to help grow their business, and later pays the lender back. When their loan has been repaid, the lender can withdraw the money and keep it, or re-invest the money in another entrepreneur and help jumpstart another dream.

Dr Ajaz Khan, Microfinance Advisor for Lendwithcare.org said: “Many British Pakistani people are self-employed and know the difficulties of running a small business themselves. Lendwithcare.org is for everyone but I am sure it will really appeal to those people wanting to help someone in Pakistan to run a business that will help to support a family living in poverty and keep re-investing their money in new entrepreneurs once it has been paid back to them.”

Lendwithcare.org has teamed up with Akhuwat (meaning brotherhood), an organisation in Lahore, to offer Islamic, or Shariah-compliant loans. In keeping with Shariah tradition, these loans do not charge interest. This means a large number of the poorest people in the Punjab region will be able to benefit from interest-free loans that comply with their religious beliefs.

Akhuwat charges just a 100 rupee (65p) application fee and then the loan is paid back in monthly instalments over 15 months. Pakistan is not without its loan sharks and lendwithcare.org will provide an alternative for people who might otherwise be forced to pay excessive interest rates when they need to borrow small amounts.

Lendwithcare.org aims to target the poorest and most marginalised, who traditionally have the most difficulty getting money for their business – especially women. The World Bank recently found that access to finance remains one of the biggest challenges to Pakistani women who want to grow a business, with less than 25 per cent of Pakistan’s businesswomen being microfinance borrowers. Whilst offered on Islamic principles, the loans are not limited to Muslim borrowers and many Christian people (a minority group in Pakistan) are also able to take up these loans.

Although Islamic microfinance has grown in recent years, it still accounts for less than one per cent of the total global reach of microfinance.

However, Ajaz Khan says: “Islamic financial institutions and governments, particularly from the Gulf region, are beginning to flex their financial muscle – and Lendwithcare is also, in a small way, making a difference.”

Lendwithcare.org has leveraged over £2.5m of loans since it began promoting the scheme in 2011 with the support of The Co-operative.

Hannah Newcomb, International Development Manager at The Co-operative, said: “As a co-operative we believe in helping people to trade their own way out of poverty.

Lenders have already made over 60,000 loans to entrepreneurs and we believe extending the scheme to Pakistan will further engage the UK public with the initiative.”–CI