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Archive for the ‘Borrower Testimonials’ Category

The uniforms have seen better days, but they receive education because of one devoted person, Edna, the teacher. It’s Bayollah Malesi from MYC4 to the left

 

We have all seen pictures from remote African villages of teachers standing in the shade of a tree with kids sitting around him or her in the dust, and if they are lucky there’s even a blackboard. And we like what we see, because we see hope.

And that’s what I saw when I visited Great Dreams Academy. Don’t let the impressive name fool you, because we are only one step up from the teacher under the tree. Great Dreams Academy is actually a church in Kawangware, a neighborhood in Nairobi. It doesn’t look like much, walls and roof made of steel plates. The inside isn’t that impressive either, one room divided by rugs hanging from the roof in order to have four “classrooms”. There are a few desks, books are nowhere to be seen, because they don’t have any (or very few). What is impressive though are the students and the teacher, Edna Nyangazi. I’ve been to quite a few schools in my part of the world (Denmark), but I’ve never witnessed this kind of discipline. They were quiet when told to be, they even sang for me and the other two accompanying me, Bayollah Malesi from MYC4’s Nairobi office and Hellen Awino from SISDO, Smallholder Irrigation Scheme Development Organization, which  provides financial services such as microloans. We went there to see what a little money can do.

Because money is needed, Edna doesn’t really get paid. It all depends on how much the parents can afford, some of them pay 150-200 Kenyan Shillings (app. two dollars) a months. Did I say parents? Now that’s another story, because many of the children are orphans and live with relatives.  And only a few of them pay for schooling, which means that Great Drams Academy and Edna depend on charity, volunteer work and loans.

Edna teaches math, English, Kiswahili, science, creative arts and environmental awareness.

- I couldn’t make it without a loan from SISDO, Edna says, who started the school which has four classes and a fifth to come, hopefully, if a new loan is granted and a new building can be added.

It doesn't take much to make a school, but textbooks would be nice to have.

It doesn’t take much to make a school, but textbooks would be nice to have.

Great Dreams Academy is a day school. Education begins at 7.30 in the morning, and ends at 4 PM. There’s no lunch at school, so unless the parents or relatives have made a packed lunch it’s a full day at school without food.

The biggest challenge for Edna is paying the rent. She pays 4000 Kenyan Shillings a month (app. 45 dollars). And many of the children have no textbooks.Her dream is to get a place of her own and not having to pay rent.

-I love children. My family asks me why I do it without getting paid, but the children are the first thing on my mind, when I wake up in the morning, she says.

It is encouraging to visit Great Dreams Academy, even if the school uniforms are torn and have seen better days, and the school is made of steel plates. I’m afraid that without a devoted teacher like Edna it wouldn’t even exist. So maybe it’s worth investing in. We saw that a little money can do a lot. They deserve a little more, so that their great dreams will not always be just that, dreams.

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Nadia started in the poultry business in 2010 with 350 chicken. Currently, she has over 700 birds and most of them are layers. She is able to earn a good weekly income from the sale of eggs. This has helped her take care of her family’s needs. Besides poultry, Nadia owns and manages a braiding salon.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your business?

I come from a large family of 10 children in a small town called Ssumbwe, Wakiso district in Uganda, I’m the fifth born in my family. I started my first business immediately after I cleared my certificate in hair dressing. My parents had always been very supportive in my education; this made me feel that I needed to support them in paying school fees for my young siblings. I started my poultry business in 2010 which enabled me to support them.

How did you hear about MYC4?

I heard about MYC4 in 2013 through the Uganda Micro credit loan officer who came to explain how MYC4 works, during one of his many visits to our group. We were very pleased as a group to be introduced to MYC4.

What problem were you facing that MYC4 have helped you to solve since you received the funds?

One problem I was facing was the lack of capital for my business, with the lack of capital I could not meet my customers demand. However, since I received my funds I have been able to fulfill my customer demands.

Nadia UMF 1Have the funds you borrowed increased your profits or income, and have you employed anyone?

Since I received the funds my business has become more fulfilling and satisfying. Before I received the funds I had a problem of buying feeds for my chickens. Causing them to not rear eggs everyday, however, once MYC4 enabled me to get the funds I was able to buy quality feeds which has made my chickens able to rear eggs every day. This has enabled me to increase my income and also employ another employee.

How much time or money has MYC4 saved you?

Before I received the funds I was buying feeds in retail which is more expensive compared to buying feeds in bulk, when I buy the feeds in bulk the prices tend to be cheaper hence I save money.

Has the funds made your life easier?

Yes, the funds have made my life easier. After I received the funds I have been able to give my chickens quality feeds that helps my chicken to be healthy and produce quality eggs, this gives me more customers in my business.

What did you like about MYC4? What is the experience of working with MYC4?

The one thing I have liked in the short time I have worked with MYC4, is that the funds were received in a very short period, secondly the interest rate is good.

Were you surprised by any part of your experience with MYC4?

Yes, MYC4 has surprised me and my fellow group members. We have found it strange and yet interesting for the fact that our pictures, details, and the funding of the loans are all done online.

What is the most important thing people should know about MYC4?

People should know that MYC4 is a tool that helps many men and women to boost their small business, so far the women in my group have been able to grow there business since they started getting loans from MYC4.

Would you recommend MYC4 to your friends, families?

I have already recommended MYC4 to my sister who has so far joined UMF and she should be getting her first loan through MYC4 soon.

 

umf NadiaDo you consider to take a second loan once you clear this loan?

The rate of MYC4 is great compared to other Micro-finances in Uganda. But the fact that I received the money in a short period is what makes me want to get another loan from MYC4.

Do you have any other thoughts or comments?

Yes, I encourage women to join Micro-finance companies that have partnered with MYC4 to experience the change.

 

 

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Growing up, going to the cinema was once in a blue moon affair for our family, on television there were shows unsuitable for children and most movies were broadcasted late in the night when most children were asleep. The only chance I got to see movies with friends was at school where we had one catholic priest called Father Richard, bring us free movies. Sometimes other people brought movies but we had to pay KES 5 (around 0.05 Euros) at the time, to access the movie theatre that was in our school hall. Sometimes we would go watch mobile cinemas that were brought to the village by missionaries, mostly during Christian festive seasons like Easter and Christmas. But mostly we would sneak into some iron sheet “cinema” near home where they offered all the action movies especially by Bruce Lee, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwaznigger. These were the best and to make matters even better, they had a commentator who explained to us exactly what was happening as we watched!

Today, children as well as adults are spoilt for choice when it comes to movies, most of them can access televisions which have different635156214289542149-1 (2) channels hence one can choose the movies to watch. Some can afford to go to cinemas while others can buy movies in DVD’s and watch them in the comfort of their homes. Still there mobile cinemas available, but best of all, the iron sheet cinemas still exist and continue to grow! The DVD selling business has also increased in most towns in East Africa. Sometimes the latest movies hit the iron sheet cinemas and are sold in DVD’s before they even premier in the main theatres, which is why people like them. The DVD selling business has created business opportunities for the youth (Though there are many who view this as wrong due to copyright infringement. Yet the majority believe the poor also deserve to enjoy the best at a cost they can afford).

On MYC4 we have people in this line of business, businessmen who bring entertainment to many homes. These businesses are usually stationed in almost every corner; from the town centre to the various neighbourhood, to the villages. One such business man is Modest Raban Sichone on the platform. He has been in this business for the last three years and the business has enable him cater for his family and has also improved his lifestyle. A business always does better with availability of customers, hence the reason he started the business, because he saw the need for DVD’s in his locality. When I asked one of the business men selling DVD in my neighbourhood why people visit his business he had this to say;

“It’s cheaper, while others are paying up to KES 1000 to watch a movie others are watching the same movies for only KES 100 or 50 in the comfort of their homes or in the iron sheet cinemas. If it was your choice, what would you choose?”

This however doesn’t come without challenges. There are low and high peak season, the competition is very steep especially from people with similar business and have DVD burning equipment. One also has to make sure they have the latest and most popular movies to survive, because when dealing with young people, as is the case for most of these businessmen one has to be diverse and have the current movies. Next time you visit East Africa and would like to see a movie, remember that you have a choice!

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There are always people who are going to be better than you, brighter, more innovative, better skilled, more beautiful, more focused, the list is endless. How one uses this information is what really matters. Will you give up and let others dominate as you become irrelevant or will you fight on and leave a mark?

As if this is not enough, there are situations that could limit you and others could be obstacles to achieving what you would want to achieve in life. These could be in terms of poverty, racism, ageism, gender inequality among others. One does not choose where to be born, which color or gender to be, but we can mould our future such that we become what we want and live the lives we desire. It is up to oneself to make sure to remain relevant in whatever one does. This is what the members of Na Sisi Tupo, a lending group from MYC4 provider Fanikiwa Microfinance Company Ltd, are doing.

Na Sisi Tupo 1

Group members weaving baskets

Who are they?

Na Sisi Tupo, which literally translates to “We are also here”, is a group of five women from Kihinani, Zanzibar. They have refused to remain in the status quo and decided to stay relevant in their families and society. They wanted to be involved in the building of the economy of their families, help their husbands in paying of their children’s school fees as well as look for ways to own land and build homes. They believe that “two hands are better than one”, and that a good home is built by both partners. They know that contributing to their homes’ economy will bring more success than just waiting for their husbands to do everything for them.

fanikiwa photo This group was formed in 2007 with the aim of formalizing their merry-go- round saving scheme and to take care of their families. The first loan this group took was used to train them in handicraft making which saw them gain skills and knowledge that they use to date. They at first started by selling their end products which are mats and bags to friends and people around them. This has however changed and they now supply their beautiful products to a handicraft shop in Zanzibar that supplies to both the local and international market. The group came to MYC4 through Fanikiwa and borrowed €1,135 to buy raw materials such as sisal, threads, leather and fabric in bulk for mass production.

We refuse to live in the status quo, we are relevant; a positive attitude is important and when you believe in your product, then your customers also will do the same and you will go places!

In everything you do, in your day to day life, strive to leave a mark in people’s lives. It could be in making an impact in the industry you are in or simply leaving heart prints. Do not procrastinate, do not be limited, refuse to just sit, be relevant!

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Meet Mwaka Mbuli Nyanje who comes from Tiribe in Mombasa, a woman who decided to beat all the odds of her community’s beliefs and started a business to assist her husband in paying the bills. Mwaka is from a community where women aren’t expected to work because the women´s chores is to take care of their homes, children, cleaning and cooking. Mwaka is 31 years and a mother of five and an astute businesswoman who has been an inspiration to other women in her village where women normally stay in their homes while their husbands provide to their family.

Mwaka going to her shop

Mwaka going to her shop

Mwaka is a client at YEHU Microfinance Trust in Mombasa Kenya one of our Kenyan providers. She started her business in the year 2012 and applied for her first loan through MYC4 in 2013.

We had a talk with her – this is what she had to say about herself, her business and MYC4.

How did you hear about MYC4?

I have been a client of Yehu Microfinance for a year and some months. When MYC4 partnered with Yehu. Our group was told about MYC4 and how it works by one of the Yehu loan officers.

What was the loan used for?

The loan has been a great help to my business; I added to my savings and I was able to stock more products in my shop. I bought more mattresses, suitcase and more clothes for both women and men.

How has the business helped your family?

My business has helped my husband and me to educate and provide for our five children. The little profit I make I’m able to assist my husband in buying food for the family and books for the kids.

What are some of the challenges you face in your business?

I don’t have major challenges in this business I have adapted to the market and I’m able to give my customers what they need.  My secret has been to understand my customers and providing them with what they need. The only small challenge I experience is the competition in the market but I’m able to keep up with that.

Do you plan to get another loan with MYC4?

Yes, once I have fully repaid this loan I plan to get another loan but this time I’m going to take a bigger loan because I have plans to expand my business to be a big store in Tiribe village.

What are your future business plans?

I would like to start importing shoes and clothes from Uganda, because I will be able to get them at a cheaper price, I also have plans to open another stall in my village because my products have been in demand.

Would you recommend MYC4 to friends and family?

Yes, so far I have introduced one lady and she is in the process of taking her first MYC4 loan, I have also encouraged women in my village to form groups and join Yehu so they can borrow money through MYC4.

Do you have additional comments?

I would like to encourage women to start small businesses so they can contribute to their family’s welfare and support their husband in paying the bills. Women should be able to support their families even when their husbands are not there.

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Solomon, branch manager in Limuru for Micro Africa. Kevin from MYC4s office in Nairobi and MYC4 co-founder Mads Kjær

Solomon, branch manager in Limuru for Micro Africa. Kevin from MYC4s office in Nairobi and MYC4 CEO and co-founder Mads Kjær

We have fields of tea and coffee on both sides of the road, the hilly landscape is a dream, it’s lush and green, but it’s called the ”white highland”. The term derives from the British and other Europeans who settled here in large numbers establishing tea and coffee plantations during the colonial period. We are on our way to Limuru, we being MYC4 CEO and co-founder Mads Kjær, his wife Hanne, Kevin from the office in Nairobi and me.

We are going to visit a couple of borrowers and to have a chat with branch manager Solomon from Micro Africa’s office in Limuru, a town 30 miles from Nairobi and with all the micro finance institutions present. This branch has 880 active clients and half a million Euro in the loan book.  Solomon tells us about a relatively new type of loan, solar loans. Solar energy has a huge potential not only in Kenya but in most parts of Africa, but you need money to invest in products such as solar lamps and solar panels. In many areas kerosene is still the main source of energy, but it’s expensive and potentially dangerous. God knows how many children have been burnt on that account.  To get a solar loan with Micro Africa you have to have another loan to begin with. The loans are still mainly meant to motivate existing good borrowers.

Solomon is an optimistic branch manager, business is running smoothly, the biggest challenge being borrowers who use a loan to cover for another loan – and they also have to say no to 1-2 hopeful people every day if they are not transparent enough or can’t provide any security. There are still a lot of people out there who cannot get a loan.

We wish Solomon good luck, and together with two loan officers we head for the first client, Wilfred Kimichi Thungu, who has a big house and a nice garden outside Limuru. Wilfred is into yoghurt. He has his own brand, Wincy Yoghurt. He keeps it simple with two flavors, vanilla and strawberry. The milk comes from a dairy farm not far away, and Wilfred hires people with the skills to make the yoghurt. They produce when the demand is there, typically twice a week. He gets 1,5 Euro per liter out of which one third is profit for him. It is still a very small business, vulnerable too, but Wilfred is determined to take it higher. We’re standing in his kitchen, he’s not used to the fuss and the interest we take in him with all our questions. Right now his biggest wish is to be able to pasteurize his products, but he hasn’t got the money for that. He has a loan for 465 Euro but wanted more.

Wilfred in his kitchen where he makes the yoghurt.

Wilfred in his kitchen where he makes the yoghurt.

- Money is the problem, and all the bureaucracy to get started. Transportation can also be a challenge. It costs to have the milk brought here and to distribute the yoghurt. I do that by matatu (minibus), but up until recently I put it on my bike and pedaled my way around to the 12 customers in Limuru. We make 8-900 liter every month, but we could sell much more, Wilfred says.

Which reminds me of a visit I made earlier to a dairy farm in Karen outside Nairobi. The place and its products are called Eldoville. Both Wincy Yoghurt and Eldoville are good examples of how taste has changed in Kenya and of how more people can afford relatively expensive milk products such as cheese. Lucy Karuga who runs Eldoville told me that a few years back most Kenyans found cheese to taste like soap but that soon it will be a widespread household product (which is fine with me as long as ugali doesn’t becomes a regular guest in my fridge).

We leave Wilfred, impressed by his little business and his determination, but Mads Kjær stresses his vulnerability. – It would help a lot if he had a steady demand, he’s too dependent on random demand, he says. Let’s hope he makes it.

Our last stop today is at Leah Njeri Kimani’s place, a small farm. Leah borrowed 650 Euro to buy 300 chicks plus feed. It’s her first loan with Micro Africa and MYC4, she had a loan with Equity Bank before, but the interest was too high.  For the money she bought three different kinds of chicks to see which is best and produces most eggs, which she sells on the market. She has a total of 900 chicks, three cows and a clothes shop not far away. – I’m a business woman, she says. I think she likes saying that, it sounds of more than being a farmer. Suddenly a man shows up, he doesn’t look like a farmer at all. It’s Leah’s husband. I’m a pastor, he says shaking our hands. They show us around the modest homestead, every inch is being used for a purpose. Land is hard and expensive to come by, and when it’s passed down from generation to generation the plots get smaller and smaller for each member of the family. But that’s another story, and certainly the business woman and the pastor seem pleased with what they have.

Leah Njeri Kimani:I'm a business woman

Leah Njeri Kimani:I’m a business woman

We say goodbye and leave the couple and the peaceful countryside having once again met great people who make it all worthwhile.

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Meet Fahamu Kadenge Swaleh, a 35 year old mother of three and an astute businesswoman. We came across Fahamu as we were doing spot-checks on our partner, Yehu Microfinance Trust at the coast in Mombasa. We are accompanied by two members of Yehu’s operation team to guide us to the clients’ business locations. This particular client, Fahamu, is based in Likoni area which is the gate to the South coast of Kenya. It normally requires the services of a ferry for people to commute to and from Mombasa Island and the South coast.

Mombasa neighborhood

It’s around 3 o’clock in the afternoon and the sweltering heat and high humidity does not spare us. Nevertheless we are determined to meet this client. She is currently one of the borrowers with the biggest loans on the Yehu-MYC4 portfolio. We wanted to hear her story.

After an almost one hour gruelling wait at the Likoni channel crossing, we finally manage to get to Fahamu’s home which is about a ten minutes drive from the shoreline. We find her waiting for us outside her house with a big smile on her face. She greets us and welcomes us inside her home but we prefer to stay outside near a shade which is more conducive. At first glance, she doesn’t cut the picture of a somehow well off business lady, maybe it was the way she was dressed in kangas that made me think so which is a common and favorite cultural trend among women of Swahili origin at the Kenyan coast. As me and my colleague Eric engage her, she seems a little bit intrigued by our Swahili from Nairobi which is quite different from the Swahili normally spoken at the coast.

A ferry at the Likoni crossing

A ferry at the Likoni crossing

Fahamu started off her own transportation business in the year 2010, when she finally managed to get a lorry of her own which is a UD Nissan Diesel Tipper. Prior to purchasing her vehicle, she used to operate as an agent whereby she would get transportation business from firms around the area and then hire vehicles and carts to transport the merchandise at hand. Eventually she accumulated enough savings and with the help of some borrowed funds she got her own. She talks of her business with passion and is ever smiling as we interact; it’s hard to believe how far she has come. Fahamu’s first loan was worth KES 20,000 (180 Euros) which she borrowed at Yehu Microfinance Trust. She has grown over the years with the organisation and is now on her fifth loan amounting to KES 250,000 (2248 Euros) which is more than ten times of her first loan.

A Nissan Diesel Lorry Tipper

A Nissan Diesel Lorry Tipper

Apart from the transportation business, Fahamu also has other businesses which include re-sale of fuel in smaller quantities to motorcycle operators in the area who can’t afford to buy costly fuel in large quantities. In addition, she also deals in tobacco whereby she buys the leaves from farmers in her area and then sells them to the manufacturing firms. It emerges that this ever smiling lady has a strong work ethic behind her smile. She tells were it not for her months old baby that she is taking care of, we probably would have difficulty tracing her at that time of the day due to her numerous hustles.

Fahamu is married and has three children, the youngest one who is barely a few months old. Her husband works in the transport business too. Currently she has four employees and plans to add an additional two to assist in the operations of the growing business. Fahamu is happy with the loan which she used to further grow her transportation business. So far she has not had any difficulties repaying the loan despite its size as she is able to make a decent income. This is what she had to say on why she thinks some micro finance borrowers appear to be struggling when doing their repayments.

“In micro finance you must have objectives of borrowing; that is when you succeed.”

There you have it; purpose comes first before you go to borrow. We thank Fahamu for her time and it’s finally time for us to go and see another client before the sun goes down.  She waves us goodbye and as usual with a smile on her face.

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Meet Micheal Wamala, a soft spoken man from Uganda, who feels he is living his dream. Being from a humble background, he hardly sat on a chair while growing up – and the first chair he sat on was made by himself. When Mr Wamala was growing up he had a passion of being a carpenter; he had always felt bad for the fact that they never had any chairs in his homestead. Once he cleared high school, he decided to make a chair and that was the beginning of his life long career of carpentry.

Wamala working at his workshop

Wamala working at his workshop

Mr Wamala is a client of Gatsby Microfinance Limited. He has successfully completed repaying 3 loans and is in the process of repaying the fourth loan through MYC4. We had a talk with him and could clearly hear is passion for carpentry. When we asked him if he could think of starting another business, he said “if I would be given another life I would still be a carpenter”.

How did you hear about MYC4?

I was a member of Uganda Small Scale Organization back in 2010 where we were introduced to Gatsby by our leaders. Gatsby told us about MYC4 and even took us to classes to understand better how MYC4 worked.

What did you use the loan for? And has the loan helped you grow your business?

The first loan I added to the savings I had and opened my first workshop, hence I stopped being employed and started operating my own business. With the second loan I added my capital and hired two young men to help me in running the business. So far my business has really grown and I have managed to open another workshop and hired four more people.

Have the loans influenced the society around you?

Yes, they have. My friends have been motivated by the good work I do, and they have been asking me how I have managed to make my business grow and still have products of good quality. The loans have also influenced the life of my family. I’m able to support my wife and my three children who are in good private schools and I pay their school fees without any problem.

Have you been able to hire new employees after you received the loans?

Yes, I have been able to hire six young men who help me in running the business. Before I got the loans I was the only one doing everything at the workshop, and I plan hiring more to run the new workshop after repaying this fourth loan.

How do you find our interest rates compared to other MFIs in Uganda?

Having started working with MYC4 through Gatsby for the last four years I have never been interested in knowing how other MFIs charge their loans. So far MYC4’s interest rates work for me, I cannot complain.

Did you find any difficulties in repaying your loans?

In repaying the first two loans I didn’t experience any difficulty in repaying. The third loan gave me some problems, because one of my workshops burnt down hence coming up with the funds to repay the loan was a struggle. I managed to clear it and request for a fourth loan.

What are your future business plans?

My future plan is to build my own building to be able to operate my business in my own building and cut the cost of rent every month to instead put that money into the business.

Would you recommend MYC4 to others?

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Wamala outside his workshop

Yes, and in fact I have recommended my two friends and they are both taking their third loan with MYC4.

Do you have additional comments?

I would encourage people to do what they love in their lives because it is always a joy to wake up to do your passion in life. For those who don’t have funds to start a business I would advise them to join a microfinance institution and request for loans.

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Raphael at his work station

Raphael at his work station

MYC4 and Micro Kenya’s Kawangware branch manager Jobes went to visit Raphael Sila Mathuva at his work station at Kirigu police post, Kawangware. Raphael is a MYC4 borrower and a man of many coats. He belongs to the Old mutual group to which he is the chair person. He started his business in 2002 as a bicycle repairer from capital he had raised. By then, bicycles were a very popular mode of transportation in Kirigu. In the current past, he has seen this change and hence there has not been a lot of repair business which has seen him venture into motorcycle business as well. He repairs the motorcycles which he says is a bit complex as compared to the repair of bicycles. This made him further his education so as to have the knowledge especially on the motorcycles’ engine so as to be able to do the correct kind of repair for the different kinds of motorcycles engines that come to his work station. He has two young men who help him at his work station.

 

His other businesses

Raphael also has a transportation business. He has bought a total of 11 motorcycles and rents them out on a daily basis to the youths in his area who in turn conduct business and pay him a total of KES 500 (€4.6) a day per motorcycle. This has seen him be source of empowerment to the youth by offering job opportunity. Raphael deals in Boxer and TVS companies motorcycles, and when we ask him why he uses this Indian motorcycle as opposed to others in the market he informs us that these makes are affordable and low maintenance and also that fuel consumption is manageable.

TVS motorcycle,one of the brands Rapheal purchases

TVS motorcycle, one of the brands Rapheal purchases

This business has enabled him to venture into yet another business of selling motorcycles in Kirigo. He buys the motorcycles from dealers in the city and sells them to the locals, especially the youth who in turn earn a living and shy away from criminal activities. Raphael had at one time opened a grocery shop just near his repair business and his wife was in charge. This was however closed due to low business. These businesses have enabled him take care of his family, however a month before and after the election business was rather slow because of the uncertainty that came with the election.

 

What of tomorrow?

Raphael took a loan of 740 Euros and the aim was to buy additional stock for spare parts for the business so as to facilitate his repair of motorcycle and bicycles which he did as was evident, his business was doing well and he had also invested in his transport business. He plans to expand his business in the future by renovating and expanding his work station as well as buying more motorcycles for rent and sale. When we ask him whether he would stop doing bicycle repair now that the motorcycle business is doing well, this is what he had to say:-

“I will always be of service to the bicycle customers because that is how I started and I am proud of my humble beginning as it reminds me to always be a hard worker. One never forgets where they came from, hence I will always offer my services to the people owning bicycles however few they are.

 

His inspiration

Raphael is a father of 3 children, as young as he looks he tells us he has a son in secondary school. This business has enabled him to educate his children who are in private schools. He believes education is key to their success. His youngest child is 3 years old and we found him at the working station together with his wife who comes to help him with the sale of spare parts in the shop that is adjacent to the working station. The business has also enabled him to buy land, and in the future he intends to put up a family house so as to cut down the cost of renting and enable his family have a permanent place to stay hence security. He is confident that his businesses will enable him achieve this and much more.

Keeping busy

Keeping busy

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Gikomba – ever heard of it? Probably not, at least I hadn’t until I went there on business. It is supposed to be the world’s biggest second hand market, but it’s more than that, it’s a town within Nairobi, and it’s more than a town – it’s a town on steroids going from about a hundred traders in the 1980’s to about 4000 traders today. It’s all about clothes, not all of it is second hand, the sound of hundreds of Singer sewing machines testifies to that. This is a very vibrant and energetic part of the capital city of Kenya.

Kevin Njuguna from MYC4's office in Nairobi

Kevin Njuguna from MYC4’s office in Nairobi

Whether you are going to trade, looking for a sweet deal or you just want to spend a couple of hours in a very special place, Gikomba is the place to look for, and it’s very close to downtown. Bales of clothes all over the place, carts being pulled and pushed by delivery men along the dusty or muddy streets, people everywhere, shops with everything your heart might desire, and sweatshops with women hunched over their Singer while their fingers skillfully direct the fabric under the needle.

This is where I find Catherine Wangari Mwangi. Or rather, I would never have found her had it not been for Kevin Njuguna from MYC4’s office in Nairobi. The place is a maze. We are visiting borrowers, and Gikomba is our first stop. Catherine is on the second floor, she has three employees. They are cramped into a little space and are not very talkative as they get paid by how much they manufacture. Or maybe they are just a little shy. But Catherine talks. She specializes in clothes for children and women. Six days a week from 8 to 5.30.

Cathrine Wangari Mowangi with her three employees in the Gikonga market

Catherine Wangari Mwangi with her three employees in the Gikonga market

- Customers come from as far away as Sudan to buy my clothes, she says. Clothes are so cheap here, and you can get everything, it’s huge. I do in whole sale, and I have my own customers, so I’m not particularly afraid of the competition.

Catherine pays 45 Euro per month in rent. She would like to buy the shop, but 9000 Euro is out of her reach. She is on her first loan for 1800 Euro, which she got in November. She would like another loan. The one she has now is for 1845 Euro which she got through SISDO.

- I want to be a big woman, she says, and for that you need money, but I’m pretty satisfied with the way things are. I’m the boss, and my three children are all doing well.  My oldest son is studying medicine at university, she tells me – not without pride. And rightly so.

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