Economic Empowerment

SMALL LOANS MAKE BIG ENTERPRENEURS OUT OF RURAL HOUSEHOLDS

Small businesses have the power to transform an economy and can be the answer to unemployment. We are already witnessing this transformation; the micro-loans we give local start-ups are unlocking rural economies

Some unlikely things combined to change Jane Kailu’s life. But looking at the bubbly mother standing behind the counter at her well-stocked shop, a bright smile on her face, it is hard to imagine the difficulties she has had to endure.

Her life took a turn for the worse after her husband died in 1998. She was a business woman of repute in Loitokitok and occasionally traveled to Taveta to sell vegetables, maize and beans. But what she earned was just enough to fend for her four children, who were all under five by the time their father died.

In 2008, Jane suffered a debilitating stroke that left her right side paralysed. Unable to fend for her children, she returned to her parents’ home where she was nursed back to health. Before her ill health, she, together with other women, had formed Enkishui Self Help Group. This turned out to be her saving grace.

Members of Enkishui benefited from training conducted by Hand in Hand Eastern Africa (HiHEA), which has been undertaking economic empowerment initiatives in Kenya for a number of years.

In 2015, the Safaricom Foundation unveiled a Ksh20 million Key 2 to Empowerment loan, a revolving fund aimed at giving loans to Kenyans with no access to bank credit. Under the programme, HiHEA was to select groups to benefit from the loans. That’s how Jane got access to a loan of Ksh10,000 which she used to open and stock her shop.

Tabitha Rapemo of Homa Bay is another beneficiary of the loan programme. Like Jane, Tabitha was struggling to make ends meet. “Feeding five orphaned grandchildren and a son was a struggle,” she says.

Besides farming, she was making and selling ropes, which did not earn her much. She too benefited from HiHEA training and after gaining new skills in rope making, her enterprise improved a great deal and could earn her upwards of Ksh6,000 every month.

“The business skills have opened up my mind and improved the way I run my business. My poultry business has grown.”

After the training, Tabitha, a member of the Bahati Ya Mungu Support group, took a Key to Empowerment loan of Ksh10,000 in 2016 and together with her Ksh3,000 personal savings started growing bananas. She planted 50 banana trees and is already reaping the benefits.

For Rose Ogutu, Safaricom Foundation has really transformed her life and that of her family. Walking into her compound, in Busia County, you will find her and her husband engaged in an activity few women engage in. Rose, 37, is a palm oil entrepreneur.

“I planted palm oil trees which I use to make palm oil and sell to my neighbours,” she says. Rose met a ‘Hand in Hand’ officer at an agricultural meeting in Busia and was later recruited into the ‘Hand in Hand’ Eastern Africa training program.

“We were trained on how to form a group, elect members, keep records and how to start and run a successful enterprise,” says Rose, a member of the Jua Kali Women Group. After the training, they were encouraged to apply for loans through the Hand in Hand and Safaricom Foundation, Key 2 Empowerment program.”

Rose took a Ksh20,000 loan and invested Ksh5,000 in the palm oil business and the rest in her poultry business.

“The business skills have opened up my mind and improved the way I run my business. My poultry business has grown. The HiHEA and the Safaricom Foundation loan is convenient for me because their interest is not high”. “Proceeds from the palm oil and poultry business has helped me clear my loan. My life is changing and very soon I’ll move to a permanent one that is under construction,” Rose says.

The Hand in Hand and Safaricom Foundation micro loan fund is geared towards increasing access to entrepreneurship education, financial literacy and micro credit among communities in Kajiado, Makueni, Busia, Bomet and Homa bay, thus alleviating poverty and addressing unemployment among young Kenyans.

Jane, Rose and Tabitha are among the more than 4,000 members from Busia, Homa Bay, Bomet, Emali and Loitokitok, who have been trained. Since Safaricom Foundation entered into a partnership with HiHEA in 2015, over KSh20 million has been disbursed in loans and 4,654 new enterprises created.

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