Empowering Micro-Entrepreneurs in Timor-Leste with KIF

Written by Lynn Hamerlinck on 5 June 2023

Never heard of Timor-Leste before? Here are some keywords to paint the picture for you: Southeast Asian island, dense forests, unspoiled beaches, and a rich coral reef ecosystem. In other words - yes - you are now able to invest in entrepreneurs who are living in a paradise-like environment.

However, appearances can be deceiving, as Timor-Leste faces significant socio-economic challenges. As many as 41% of its population of 1.3 million lives below the poverty line, and a staggering 87% lacks access to the financial system. In response to these pressing financial issues, Kaebauk Investment Financiere (KIF) emerged as a catalyst for change. KIF's initiatives have empowered over 10,000 small entrepreneurs, with 70% of them being female shop owners and farmers, by providing them with access to microfinance loans.


Impact-focused Microfinance Institution

This new addition to the Lendahand portfolio started as an NGO microfinancing program with the support of Save the Children. After receiving approval from the central bank, it became more formalized. The institution's main shareholder is an NGO that puts making a positive social impact at the forefront of its activities.

Being a young nation, Timor-Leste presents a unique opportunity to invest in the country's growth and development. The country has a short history as an independent nation, having been colonized by Portugal and later annexed by Indonesia. In 2000, it gained independence, but a conflict with Indonesia marred the transition in 2006-2007. During the economic downturn that followed, only two microfinance organizations survived, one of them being KIF. 


Their existence is crucial to East Timor's economic development. For many, mainly female, entrepreneurs, a microfinance institution such as KIF is the only way to obtain financial resources. Alcina, too, needed the microfinance loan to buy fertilizer and eggplant seeds. With the additional income, she was able to enroll her children in a private high school, ensuring them a quality education. Thanks to the loan, Alcina feels empowered as both a business owner and a mother.

Our colleague, investment manager Jan Postmus, recently visited KIF: “When in the capital Dili, I visited an entrepreneur who runs a shop from a big garage box along the main square where she sells big bags of rice and seeds in bulk. Every day, she had to rent a truck and organize a couple of guys to get the goods to clients.

With a loan from KIF, she could finally buy a small truck herself, making the delivery time and cost-efficient. Once again, I was amazed by how a small loan can make such a big difference in people’s lives.” 

Today, KIF has become an essential player in Timor-Leste's economic and social development. As a licensed MFI, the company meets stricter requirements and is now able to attract savings deposits from clients. Having the institution under supervision allows for better monitoring and more access to financial services for clients.

In addition to being a microfinance institution, KIF takes pride in being the largest private employer in Timor-Leste, employing over 300 people. By investing in this local partner, you provide valuable support to both the company and their employees, and the growth of SME entrepreneurs who lack access to traditional financial services.


Aurelia, a determined farmer in Timor-Leste, also faced financial challenges. However, her life took a positive turn when she heard about local microfinance institution KIF. With two $500 agri loans, Aurelia bought seeds and equipment, transforming her farm and life. Her story showcases how hope, combined with the financial opportunity from KIF, can turn humble beginnings into a flourishing harvest of dreams.


What about Timor-Leste?

Timor-Leste is home to 1.3 million people. The capital Dili is a relatively small city where the Portuguese colonialism days blend with the Indonesian influences and the culture of the indigenous habitants. 

The country has a weak economy, uses US Dollar as a currency, and is heavily reliant on its border with Indonesia and the income generated from oil and gas exploration. The economy in rural areas is primarily focused on agriculture and trade.

Investing in KIF

Being one of the only possibilities for people to access financial support, investing in KIF is vital for entrepreneurs. It serves as a game-changer, providing them with the necessary funds and unlocking new possibilities for growth. Also curious about the potential financial return on your investment?  KIF offers you a favorable interest rate of 4.5%. Now it is up to you to combine this financial benefit with the satisfaction of making a meaningful impact. 

KIF’s first project is now live on Lendahand. 

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