Meet Elizabeth Wanja Kamau, an energetic 34 year old mother of two. At the time we were going for the borrower spot-check, we found her quite busy by the roadside mobilizing some women in her local area of Nyando for a meeting with Mheshimiwa; an aspiring female member of parliament in her constituency. She confides to me and the SISDO loan officer who was accompanying me that she frequently is charged with the responsibility of welcoming political aspirants in her village as she is well known and also leads a number of women groups in her area. One can tell her charismatic nature just by looking at how she interacts with the other fellow villagers and the respect accorded to her by them, despite her youthful age.
The great initiative that paid off
Elizabeth started her rentals business way back in 2003 when she took her first loan of 20,000 shs (€172) from SISDO. With this amount, she constructed her first two units. The units are located on plot of land her husband inherited from his parents when they passed away but unfortunately, he did not have the resources to develop it. She took the initiative to look for means of supplementing the income her husband brought home from his wages in a nearby construction firm. This led her to join one of SISDO’s women group in Kawangware area and that became the birth of her journey to financial sustainability.
How did she use the loan?
Elizabeth currently has 21 housing units to her credit and plans to add more as soon as she clears her outstanding loan and takes up another loan. Elizabeth used the MYC4 loan advanced of 96,118.5 shs (€922) to purchase iron sheets and other building material so that she could add three more housing units to her existing ones. When MYC4 together with a SISDO loan officer visited, the three housing units were complete and had already been occupied. In her neighborhood, the demand for housing is very high compared to other similar regions around Nairobi.
The houses are booked for occupation as early as when the floors of the houses are under construction which kind of explains the soaring demand. In contrast, these units do not have flowing tap water, water is obtained at a subsidized fee from a borehole near the chief’s office. Electricity is rationed such that it is only available to the tenants on Sundays and only up to 6pm in the evening. Despite these seeming limitations, the units are always fully occupied.
Challenges faced when constructing such houses is disturbance from the city council officials who demand to be paid a ‘fee’ to allow such construction to go on unperturbed. In addition the cost of building material is constantly on an upward trend whereas it is not possible to pass on these costs regularly to the tenants as the rent will become unaffordable.
So far, Wanja has not faced any difficulties repaying the loan since the rental income is steady as it comes in every other month and her units are always full. She however engages in careful planning of her income so that her family’s welfare is well taken care of and most importantly the education of her two children. Elizabeth takes pride in her “little achievement” as she describes it and her future plans are to buy a parcel of land and develop it by building more housing units. Indeed many people in Kenya lack decent housing and Elizabeth is one of those citizens keen to bridge this gap by providing decent and affordable housing to the people in the lower income bracket. This is another one of the many success stories in Africa and many more continue to happen every day.