I’ve always been a big supporter of the fact that if you believe in people, you bring out a side in them you would have never seen. You see someone full of hope, strength and even dignity in some cases. This is exactly what the Hand in Hand East Africa, which is supported by the Safaricom Foundation, does for many small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs.
Safaricom Foundation has been working with its implementing partner Hand in Hand East Africa (HiHEA) for the last three years to execute a microloan fund programme called the Key 2 Empowerment targeting youth and women. In its new strategy 2018-2021, it will work with various implementing partners to execute an Economic Empowerment project that cost Kshs 35million in their first year.
HiH EA is a non-governmental organisation that is premised on the need to create sustainable income generating activities. Through it Safaricom has implemented its economic empowerment projects in five areas: Homa Bay, Busia, Bomet, Embu, Emali and Oloitoktok.
By looking at poverty differently, the Hand in Hand project sees grassroots entrepreneurs being full of energy and ideas and they help turn their skills and potential into jobs as they find a way up and out of poverty. So far, with 237,139 members and 12,036 self help groups, they have created 332,788 jobs, 247,939 enterprises and disbursed over 53,696 loans which totals to 669,664,104 shillings.
Upscaling small businesses
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) play a major role in economic development in every country, especially African countries. Studies indicate that in both advanced economies and developing countries
SMEs contribute on average 60 percent of total formal employment. For the Eastern African economies, the contribution of the SMEs sector to job opportunities is even greater.
Finance is the backbone of SMEs and any other business enterprise. Finances are needed to start up, expand, diversify enterprises and at times used as working capital. Without finance, no business enterprise can achieve its objectives. Through HiH EA Enterprise Incubation Fund, they offer loans to small enterprises that eventually change lives.
In 2017, through the support of Safaricom Foundation, Kiva and Active
Invest we were able to give loans amounting to Ksh 35,172,750 to 4538
groups. Members have also been able to access loans through external linkages such as the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) and the Women Enterprise fund (WEF). The external linkages disbursed loans amounting to KES87,830,000 as at December 2017.
One such project that caught my eye was Leona’s story. At the age of 26, Leina, a mother of 7 became a beneficiary of the Adult literacy program funded by the Swedish agency Läkarmissionen that aims to empower illiterate adults in Makueni and Kajiado by teaching them to read, write and create sustainable enterprises. For her, knowing how to read, write and do basic calculations is essential in doing business and other income generating activities.
The integration of adult literacy and entrepreneurship training has enabled women like Leina to engage in self-employment as a means of making a living and maintaining a consistent income.
Leina now operates a maize selling business and also sells beaded jewelry. She is now able to manage her household income. Her household relations with her husband have also improved. “I no longer nag him about money for buying sugar. I am independent and he knows he has an adult in the house,” Leina says.
Since graduating, Leina has opened a bank account and has applied for a loan of Kshs 10,000 through the Safaricom Foundation-Key 2 Empowerment project to expand her business. Leina who was born to illiterate parents prides herself in having a certificate of completion of adult literacy learning and looks forward to continue to secondary education.
HiH EA has trained Leina and other Maasai women
in her group about gender and civic rights and