Beauty parlour and training salon
Loan: £1,103 (KSH 150,000)
Entrepreneur: Daisy Odhiambo
Location: Oyugis, Kenya
Daisy Odhiambo owns a 3 year old beauty parlour and training salon in Oyugis that employs 5 people. The business has historically suffered…
TradeRelief is now officially operating in Uganda! It has been a long and arduous journey, but we are proud to say that we have finally opened our second office, bringing affordable credit to deserving entrepreneurs. Meet our first borrower:
Andrew Turyamureba from Jinja is a man on a mission. Despite leaving school when he was just nine years old, he’s not willing to live his life in poverty and misery. Operating a bicycle-taxi, he managed to save enough to buy a small kiosk in a local market in 2009, but had to rent it out since he didn’t have the capital to run it himself. A year later he had saved up enough to start running it himself as well as upgrading his taxi vehicle to a motorbike which brings in more income. His wife, Annette, works every day in the kiosk being the more literate of the two with full primary education. When TradeRelief started looking for applicants he seemed to be an ideal case: Not only does he support his own children and his niece, he also sends money for the education of six other children in his home village as well as supporting his parents in their old age. Andrew applied for a loan of 4,000,000 Ugandan shillings (about £1000) to buy a fridge, a popcorn machine and some other equipment for his shop. Ever entrepreneurial, he’s already making plans for his next loan, once he’s repaid the first.
Local bureaucracy permitting, TradeRelief will open it’s second office in Jinja, Uganda, this week! It has been a long and arduous journey from idea to final execution, but this week we will (hopefully) finally be able to say TradeRelief is operating in Kenya and Uganda. This comes at a time when our funds in Oyugis, Kenya are approaching self-sustainability with new loans being entirely financed by recycling repayments from old ones, allowing TradeRelief to direct our limited funds to this new office.
TradeRelief believes in working through and with local people and this office is no exception. Daudi Mutalya, a bright, young Ugandan, recently returned from working in the UK, has gotten together a group of nine qualified people, all heralding from the area and trained in fields as diverse as finance, engineering, hotel management and NGO management, and who will be overseeing the day-to-day running of TradeRelief in Jinja. They realised early on that sometimes the entrepreneurs with the biggest social impact might not be the most financially literate and put together three ‘modules’ that they offer to applicants, free of charge of course, covering issues such as bookkeeping and risk management. This ensures that not only does the borrowers gain financially from the loans but by becoming more financially literate, they will also be in a better position to deal with the issues that inevitably will arise, making their businesses - and thus the jobs - more sustainable. Needless to say, at TradeRelief we’re very excited about this recent development and keen to see this take off the ground. In Daudi Mutalya’s own words: “It’s not a question of whether we can grow TradeRelief here; it’s a question about how to make it grow in such a way that we can maximise social impact while at the same limiting losses.” Full of ideas, he has talked with other NGOs, local councillors and the like to catch a wider net and learn from others; microfinance institutions are plentiful in Uganda, even though few cater to our target group: existing business with the potential to grow from small to medium sized and create employment in the process.
The first borrowers have already been identified and as soon as the paperwork is in order, they will receive their loan. Hopefully, that’ll be within the week, so be sure to check back to read their story once it’s official.
Most often we hear unemployment statistics used as an indicator of a population’s income levels. In most developing nations, however, it is common to work fewer hours than what is necessary to survive or have a job that pays too little. Both give rise to what is known as underemployment; an un-utilised workforce and negative social consequences. These people do not count towards government statistics - after all they do have a job - but are nonetheless not generating enough income to support a decent standard of living. Underemployment is especially common amongst unskilled labourers; in industries like construction, hotels and restaurants, and commercial agriculture it is hard for workers to find enough work during the whole year. Women are more likely to be underemployed than men, since they are less likely to be employed in formal sectors where wages are relatively higher.
While underemployment can also be caused by over-qualification - workers having higher qualifications than available jobs require - in Western Kenya where TradeRelief works, it’s mainly caused by an unproductive labour force - hiring more people wont increase revenue for businesses and wages reflect that. Especially young people struggle to find meaningful employment - while making up a bit more than third of the population, under-25s make up 60% of the un- or underemployed. With 45% of the population below 15 years, there’s no reason to expect that to change any time soon.
Leading financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF for many years held the belief that what was required was economic growth; once at a high enough level, the Kenyan economy would absorb the currently-unproductive labour. However, despite growing quite well the last decade or so, weathering both the global financial crisis and the Euro crisis well, but the Kenyan economy has seen a jobless growth. One thus cannot rely on prevailing market forces alone to provide meaningful employment to Kenya’s youth and a targeted approach is necessary. One that seeks to create employment that is not only fulltime but also pays a salary people can live off. At TradeRelief, we try as credit-providers to push growth in sectors that create jobs that are fulltime but not exploitative, well-paid, productive jobs that not only give a decent income but also sociologically enriches a person’s life. Follow this blog, like us on Facebook or go to our website www.traderelief.org for more details on our work and to read case studies on some of the businesses we’ve given loans.
TradeRelief insists on seeing a positive social impact from its loans. Social impact, however, is a deliberately loose concept, offering local businesses room to interpret the needs of the community themselves. While most applicants opt for employment generation and sponsorships of orphans’ education, some have been more creative. Here are three examples of what businesses are doing on top of employment creation to improve the lives of people in the community:
One Touch Initiatives is the area’s first cyber cafe and its biggest. In an increasingly online world, One Touch offer computer literacy training and helps ordinary community members access the government’s online portal where increasingly access to public services is to be found. One Touch is building a centre specifically for this purpose, where government and other online services are made accessible to a population generally not very computer literate. What is more, One Touch has plans to operate a mobile unit: a van equipped with computers, printers and internet access to go into the rural areas to connect people further afield. The social benefits arising from One Touch’s operations are thus much larger than the nine staff members currently employed.
Imani Catering Group offers catering and decorations for events such as weddings, funerals and other functions. While employing up to 30 people at a time, Imani has already trained and set lose two groups who have started their own catering companies, and is in the process of training a third. This causes a high turnover of staff and the number of people who has passed through their training programme and on to a sustainable business career is well over 60.
Agaja Electricals installs power lines to rural communities. The company increasingly wins contracts offered by the government parastatal Kenyan Power and Electricals Ltd. to connect the region’s secondary schools to the main grid, so that the students can receive training in computer literacy and have electricity in their dormitories (most secondary schools in Kenya are boarding schools). Once all the secondary schools are connected, Kenyan Power will move on to the primary schools and rural government offices, aiming at electricity for all. While the installations are a source of income for Agaja, the benefits from their business operations extends far beyond the 16 young men and women who has received training and employment from the company.
As the above examples show, positive social impact has many guises and comes in many shapes and forms but always emanating from the businesses interpretation of what the community needs. TradeRelief therefore more of a facilitator enabling businesses to reach more people, while it’s the businesses that actually improve people’s lives.
Food insecurity is a common occurrence in western Kenya and this year is no exception. While average plot sizes are shrinking due to population pressures, the main crop grown in the region is maize which also accounts for the majority of caloric intake amongst the poorest part of the population. Easily stored but comprising almost entirely of starch, maize is not a very nutritious diet and farmers rely on the market for their other nutritional needs outside the two annual harvest seasons.Without functioning market mechanisms for storage or futures contracts, however, local prices fluctuate wildly; the price of tomatoes in the dry season is about six times the price at harvest. Since poor people spend upwards of 80% of their incomes on food, food prices matter a lot for their food security and nutritional status.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that high prices in the dry season reflect low supply and that the solution involves increasing production. However, this kind of approach misses the point: Food security has very little to do with food production and everything to do with incomes. The food is produced, it is there. If high local prices reflected unmet demand, being a market economy with near-free trade with its neighbours and relatively good infrastructure, someone would transport food to the region. But that’s exactly the problem: Western Kenya is poorer than other parts of the country and prices are high in the dry season not because of low overall supply but because of low demand for food stuffs due to high incidence of poverty. People do not have money to buy food and without money in the hands of consumers there is no incentive for others to transport food to western Kenya when demand is both higher and more stable in Nairobi, Coastal, Central and Rift Valley Provinces. Malnutrition thus occurs not because there is no food available in the country, but because people cannot afford to buy the ingredients of a healthy and balanced diet all year round. To improve food security in the region, the emphasis therefore needs to be on getting money in the hands of poor people - raising incomes, rather than increasing production on already small and crowded plots (That’s not to say that there are no supply side constraints: there are, but improved storage facilities for agricultural products would be a better investment than increased production, but that is another issue).
A common characteristic amongst employees of TradeRelief-funded businesses in Oyugis in western Kenya, is that they have recently left the rural areas. Young and semi-educated, they know that they can improve their lives and food security not by producing more food but instead by getting a job and buying food from others. Of course that’s a gamble - getting a job is by no means guaranteed, but the associated increase in welfare from employment is so much higher that many find the gamble worthwhile and as people leave subsistence agriculture and enter the labour force, those remaining in the rural areas will find that the payoffs to farming increase, increasing their incomes and hence food security too. And the employment does increase welfare significantly: Pre-employment, about 75% lived below the poverty line, today that figure is about 30%, most of whom are recent employees.
So what is the takeaway message? If you want to improve people’s food security, the focus should be on providing meaningful alternatives to subsistence agriculture. This is the philosophy being TradeRelief’s work; we provide affordable and tailored financing to businesses that improve employment prospects in the region. You can learn more about our work and read case studies of the businesses we work with here on this blog, on www.traderelief.org or by finding us on Facebook.