I’m invited on a tour with MYC4 and a couple of people from KEEF, Kenya Entrepreneurship Empowerment Foundation. We are going to make spot checks on some of the businesses. I don’t really know what to expect, are we going to sneak up on the owners and scare the living daylight out of them by a surprise visit and nose our way through their premises, stock and records or what? But operations manager Githa Kurdahl from MYC4’s office in Nairobi tells me that the borrowers know that we are coming and that spot checks are a part of an ongoing evaluation. Every business can be selected for a spot check up to twice a year.
– It’s us who pick out the businesses we want to check, it’s important to us that they know who MYC4 is, Githa tells me on our way to the first stop, The Easy Ways Salon. And there is no doubt that we were expected: ten employees were sitting nicely in a row waiting for us to show up. It’s a busy salon in the heart of Nairobi, business is good but Esther, the manager, wants more stock. She has a loan of 2583 Euro of which 18 percent has been paid back.
Credit operations manager Titus Kuria explains to me the purpose of the spot checks: – Basically we want to make sure that the business is for real, are the people there? We need to know basic things like that. How’s the activity level? We also want to see if the loan has actually been given to the client, we need to know if they are viable and can make a good return and pay back the loan. Furthermore we do desk reviews in the providers’ offices where we compare the records of the providers with what is captured on the MYC4 platform. What is on record, text and photos, must also be found in the field. And then we chat, that’s also important, he says.
We leave The Easy Ways salon after about 15 minutes happy with what we’ve seen. No problems there. Next stop is one of those places that convince me that if you can make it here you can make it everywhere. It’s an m-pesa shop so well hidden that even if I were offered a million shillings I wouldn’t be able to find it again, from the street you go downstairs to a maze of narrow corridors where people run their tiny businesses of all kinds. There’s not a customer in sight, but somehow these people make a living. One of them is Ann Wambui Mwangi, a young woman who roams the streets of the city for customers while her brother tends the shop. After a short chat we leave, Titus Kuria is satisfied with the meeting.
During the day we make one spot check after the other, and they all live up to the expectations. The last one was out of town, a gas station owned by Abisha Wanbui Kirigwi, who wants a loan for a kerosene pump and more fuel stock. She and her husband have a helper, a young man who sleeps on a berth in a backroom. He works six days a week from 6 am till 11 pm. That’s a long day, and he only gets Wednesdays off. This has nothing to do with spot checks, but I mention that only because as this is written the biggest trade union in my country, Denmark, has just rejected a proposal to cancel a holiday or two (of which we have loads) in order to help the economy, because we all have to work a little bit more than 35 hours a week. In my opinion that union could do with a spot check.
And sometimes I think of that guy in the backroom and his long hours.