From Mary Kiguru, Creator and Co-ordinator of Sujali and Mike Calvert, York St John University, UK.
The micro-finance project, supporting women entrepreneurs in Nairobi, has continued to develop and this month celebrates its sixth birthday. We are celebrating with cakes for the women (and two men now) and, as well as highlighting news from the group, we also take this opportunity to take stock.
The point has been made before and is worth repeating: micro-finance is a gift that keeps on giving. The initial capital (*KES350,000 – approx. £2500) plus the interest payments (at 8% now) that the women have made, which increases the ‘pot’ considerably, has been lent out multiple times. In total, KES1,221,000 (over £9000) has circulated among the members as loans. The women have been encouraged to save and their total savings top KES150,000. That means that there is over £4000 in the system to lend out again and again. These sums are small in our terms but in a country where many struggle on KES200/300 shillings a day …
The giving does not stop with the money. University students have supported the project along the way given some help with basic finance and marketing and now Kendi Muchungi, a lecturer at Africa Nazarene University is working with the group to set up a social media presence using Facebook and to provide much needed help with bookkeeping and aspects of business such as strategic planning and value proposition.
We have stressed throughout that the scheme is small and, with that size, there is vulnerability. However, although there is an attraction in scaling up, we still feel that replication might be a better model. The social cohesion built into this scheme fits well with the idea of a chama (a self-help group that is very common in Kenya – according to research, there are over 300,000!). The group must keep on looking at ways they can help each other.
Mike got to meet three new members: Janet has a clinic near to some of the other businesses. She is able to bring a more personal service to the community than the public provision nearby. Robert has a hardware store which he is building up. His loan of KES60,000 has enabled him to build up his supplies for the building trade and he looks forward to the future with optimism. John has borrowed the money to build up his motorcycle taxi business. He currently rides someone else’s bike but has plans to buy his own.
As for the regular members, Jane has opened a ‘hotel’ (cafe) where we celebrated Sujali’s birthday and has planted new bananas after the disastrous drought that hit her plants last year. Grace continues to build her hotel business, now selling charcoal as well as renting out part of the expanded premises to a church. She borrowed KES150,000 to venture into the motorcycle taxi business also. Grace is paying her loan off in record time freeing it up for other borrowers or, more likely, to take out another loan.
A few members are struggling financially and are being encouraged to stay on track for their own good and for that of the group. Hopefully, they will pull through. We wish the group well at 6 and, as the song goes, we hope they have ‘many, many more’.
*£1 = KES130