One can probably argue what is more important: food, safety or shelter? Anyway, one without the other is really not going to work for a longer period of time. For a lot of poor people food and safety isn’t the big issue anymore, but shelter is. Not that they don’t have shelter, but many people are eager to leave the sheds and the slums behind them and move to something better. Some of them are already on their way.
This is where Makao Mashinani comes in. It’s a housing project teaming up with MYC4 in these days. The first loans will appear on the MYC4 platform in February.
Mary Waithira Maina is a teacher in Nakuru, 150 km. north of Nairobi. She’s married to a matatu driver, they have two daughters aged 13 and nine. I meet her outside their newly built house, she’s dressed in what I believe are her best Sunday clothes, because “the press” is here. For a split second I don’t know whether the house is the new one or the one they have left, because to the untrained north European eye it doesn’t look much: A roughly built stone house with three rooms. It is – of course – the new one and a huge improvement compared to the place they have left, which Mary also shows me: A dark wooden shed attached to another shed with neighbors living just on the other side of a thin wall.
– In about a year we’ll also have power installed, and the fencing will be finished, she says as we sit and talk in the living room of their new home. – This is so much better, not only because of the quality of the house but because we own it. Our old place was rented.
Makao Mashinani is a spin off from K-REP Bank whose senior business development officer in Nakuru, Mureithi Kibinge is showing me around giving me the details about how clients are chosen.
– We start future clients up in groups so that they feel obligated towards each other, they can encourage each other to meet the demands, and if a client cannot pay one month the rest can step in. It works fine that way. Also they are thoroughly screened during 6-8 weeks before they get the green light. Plus the client must have saved 10 pct. in order to get his or her first loan. We judge their character carefully and teach them the basics of micro finance, he tells me.
He also assures me that people who see this project as a give-away can forget all about it. – Some people think they can just show up and be showered with money. They soon find out that it’s not the case.
Mr. Kibinge takes me to a hotel downtown Nakuru, where a group of 12 men are gathered around a table together with a representative from K-Rep Bank. Payments are being made, money crosses the table, and everything is meticulously recorded in the books by hand. These are men who are in the process of becoming home owners with the help of Makao Mashinani and a first loan of Ksh. 100.000, about 1000 euro which is to be repaid in three years, sometimes with as little as Ksh. 500 a month. They are moving from sheds to houses built of stones.
Gladys Warmusii’s dream is still in the making. She’s a family house helper, and with Isaac, the youngest child of the family on her back, she takes me on a tour of what is going to be her new home. Only the naked walls are there yet, because it takes time, especially if your monthly salary is as small as Ksh. 3000, about 30 euro, and there is no husband, so her three daughters have to chip in.
– I expect the roof to be up in January next year. Until then we’ll have to stay with my parents, says Gladys.
As with the men in the hotel this house is her dream. You can invest in that dream and maybe become the proud investor in Gladys’ roof.