EBay Inc, the world's largest online auctioneer and payments company, launched on Wednesday a Web site allowing ordinary investors to buy securities aimed at improving conditions in the world's poorest countries. MicroPlace, located at http://www.microplace.com, will allow people to invest as little as $100 to support development in impoverished areas.
So-called microfinance is the supply of loans, savings, insurance and other basic financial services to low-income households and businesses, typically without collateral. It is often conducted in emerging economies, where people cannot typically obtain bank loans.
Microfinance is at work in more than 100 countries, and is generally provided by financial institutions or wealthier investors. It gained wider renown last October when Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus, who pioneered it in 1976, and the Grameen Bank he founded won the Nobel Peace Prize.