“Tuanze Biashara” is Swahili for “Let's Start a Business”, a poverty alleviation project integrating a community radio station, social media, training workshops and a savings and loan association. See how this innovative micro-enterprise project is lifting people in eastern Kenya’s Tana River County out of poverty.
By Jon Hargreaves
I’d like to introduce you to Flora and Hadiya, two budding Kenyan entrepreneurs who really mean business. In the absence of finding jobs and struggling to make ends meet, these two delightful ladies never thought they’d be able to start a business. That was until HCR in collaboration with Aid For Trade launched the Tuanze Biashara (Let’s Start a Business) project, in an area of eastern Kenya’s Tana River County, where poverty is widespread. Using the newly established radio station, Amani FM, the project involves an innovative mix of radio programmes, live ‘phone-in discussions, community interaction via WhatsApp and workshops, to encourage local people, irrespective of their education, to develop their business ideas and then put them into action.
“I once tried setting up a juice business,” said Flora, “But I failed and lost all my money. Then I started attending the workshops run by Amani FM and the trainer, Mr Amara, equipped us with the tools to be successful. He taught us first to find out what people wanted and then see what we could do to meet that need. So I began selling porridge. At first I didn’t quite get the taste right, but after a few experiments, I quickly began selling out of porridge and having to make more batches. I now can’t keep up with the demand so am taking on a partner and borrowing money to buy a bigger stove and new pots. My new business puts food on my table, pays my rent and helps me buy clothes. One day I hope to have a chain of restaurants throughout Tana River County.”
Hadiya noticed that in one remote area of Tana Delta, the boda boda (motorbike taxi) drivers had to drive a long way to get fuel. So she started a small business selling petrol in discarded 2 litre plastic bottles. “I have been so successful,” says Hadiya, “That my mother is now selling the fuel full-time and I am launching a clothes line for ladies in the village. Having spoken to so many people I know exactly what they want and where i can get the fabric. The training has really showed me that even I CAN start a business.”
At the end of the workshops a budding group of entrepreneurs were inspired to set up a community savings and loan association, known locally as Table Banking. “Every week this group meets to pool their savings, while one or two people are able to take a loan, which has to be paid back at 10%,” said Philip Amara, the YES project trainer. “As a result of this, we have seen new businesses launched as well as existing businesses able to make improvements.”
Philip says it is very difficult for most Kenyan citizens to access capital from banks, as the interest rates are very high and few people have any collateral. “It is for that reason that we have partnered with HCR to make larger sums available, offering much better interest rates than the bank,” said Philip. He added that the best business ideas with the best plans, will be rewarded, both with a loan and free advertising on the radio station, as Amani FM follows their progress. Philip believes that through the radio, the community will learn what ordinary people can do and begin to believe that they too can start a business. “We want to end this mindset of poverty and dependency,” he said.
By Jon Hargreaves
There is an old proverb that says, "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” At HCR we’ve come to realise that if we really want to help alleviate poverty, we need to go even further - we need to teach people to start “fishing businesses”, so they can feed themselves, their families and their communities, for all time.
To that end, in partnership with Aid For Trade and supported by the Andrews Charitable Trust, we recently launched the YES (Young Entrepreneurs’ Startup) project, in an area of eastern Kenya’s Tana River County, where poverty is widespread. Using the newly established radio station, Amani FM, the project involves an innovative mix of creative radio programmes, live ‘phone-in discussions, social media interaction and workshops to encourage local people, irrespective of their education, to develop their business ideas and then put them into action. By the end of the workshops, budding entrepreneurs will be able to develop business plans, the best of which will be eligible for low-interest loans. As the resulting businesses get going, the radio station will closely follow the development of these enterprises, encouraging new would-be entrepreneurs to have a go.
“We are now up to programme seven on the radio, and beginning to help workshop participants develop their business plans,” says project leader, Philip Amara, adding that already many great business ideas are being generated. Philip says the radio programmes ‘Tuanze Biashara’, which is Swahili for “We Start a Business”, have been well-received by the community and generated a very lively response across the region. There is also a very active WhatsApp group with around 45 participants who share ideas, encourage each other and respond to the things they are learning. “Just today,” says Philip, “a group has announced their plans to set up a modern butchery in the town of Garsen, which is a real need in the area.” In this region of high unemployment, Philip is confident that the project will stimulate new wealth in the area and begin to break the mindset of poverty and dependency on aid.
Although extreme global poverty has been cut by more than half since 1990, sub-Saharan Africa is lagging behind with over 40% of people still living in absolute poverty. Our dream is to extend the YES project to other parts of Kenya and the Swahili-speaking world, to make a sustainable contribution to ending poverty among some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities, enabling people to enjoy the fullness of life for which they were created.