Formal employment rates in Kibera are predictably miniscule and the near zero government support necessitates entrepreneurial activity just to survive. Whilst the proximity of the Nairobi Metropolis provides an unsteady demand for low-skill low-cost labour, the slum businesses are stunted by nano-access to reasonably priced credit from the formal institutions whilst the ‘Shylock’ lenders back-fill the demand with eye watering interest rates and uncomfortable consequences for non-payment.
Whilst targeted NGO micro enterprise loans are unlikely to create shilling millionaires, they can provide a first step up from selling oranges to passing cars on the congested highways. Stepping into the newly created bijou barber shop shined a small ray of light. A neatly decked cutting area with clippers, and electrical supply heating water for shaving; posters proclaiming hair cutting possibilities were complimented by a comfortable customer seated waiting area. A price list was proudly blue-tacked to the large mirror facing the barber’s chair.
Eagerly taking the chair for a test drive provided an unexpected baberial challenge. Mzungu hair was a first in this Kibera saloon and likely to be the last. Declared as delicate and difficult the client hesitantly settled for a grade three whilst the owner performed admirably under the visitors gaze.
Meanwhile a small crowd of curious onlookers gathered outside.