Micro businesses are part of the soul of the Kibera economy although some work better than others. Fledging starts-up have around the same success rate as anywhere else in the world and 90 percent will nose dive in the first few months. With no public social security safety net the only choice is get up and try again. Seed capital at Shylock interest rates throttles innovation and the local customer base is often the competitor which should result in the death of the entrepreneur, although it doesn’t. Far from it.
Our micro enterprise development project with its fifty dollar loans has had mixed results. Intended mainly to help developing start ups, it helps baby businesses expand and develop with a capital investment but unbeknown to us had quietly been encouraging others to donate small shilling business seed money grants to those that had very little. Emboldened by this, a group of women formed a complex and bewildering network of informal community credit unions, swapping small amounts of capital with individuals enabling the micro-bulk purchase of saleable commodities for retail in the community.
Curiously named Mama Mboga, their numbers had swollen to around 60 and this formidable group gathers regularly to encourage and share ideas. Hearing their stories was a must.
Mboga: Swahilli for vegetable (Also a young male lion in the Lion King)
Shylock: loan shark
These writings are usually penned whilst in the field working with our friends who live and work in Kibera and it is hoped that they bring insight, understanding and a provocation that the status-quo is unacceptable. Please feel free to unsubscribe or share as appropriate. Any opinions implied or expressed are my own and names may have been changed for the sake of privacy.