Electronic auction house eBay has launched MicroPlace, a Web site that enables US customers to invest in microfinance projects aimed at helping people in the poorest parts of the world.
The site acts as a broker, allowing customers to buy microfinance investments for a minimum of $100 from microfinance security issuers.
Funds are used to make small loans to the working poor to start or grow small businesses.
Investors can choose the country and microfinance institution that their money goes to. At launch the site will allow people to direct investments to Africa, Eurasia, Latin America and Southeast Asia.
Initially only US residents can make investments, via PayPal or a bank account, says eBay.
"In the past, microfinance investing has generally been pursued by large financial institutions or high-net-worth individuals, and has been less accessible for most people," says Tracey Pettengill Turner, founder and general manager, MicroPlace. "MicroPlace now offers an easy way for the everyday investor to participate in microfinance; the opportunity to receive a return on their investment; and empower the world's working poor to lift themselves from poverty."