Meet Fahamu Kadenge Swaleh, a 35 year old mother of three and an astute businesswoman. We came across Fahamu as we were doing spot-checks on our partner, Yehu Microfinance Trust at the coast in Mombasa. We are accompanied by two members of Yehu’s operation team to guide us to the clients’ business locations. This particular client, Fahamu, is based in Likoni area which is the gate to the South coast of Kenya. It normally requires the services of a ferry for people to commute to and from Mombasa Island and the South coast.
It’s around 3 o’clock in the afternoon and the sweltering heat and high humidity does not spare us. Nevertheless we are determined to meet this client. She is currently one of the borrowers with the biggest loans on the Yehu-MYC4 portfolio. We wanted to hear her story.
After an almost one hour gruelling wait at the Likoni channel crossing, we finally manage to get to Fahamu’s home which is about a ten minutes drive from the shoreline. We find her waiting for us outside her house with a big smile on her face. She greets us and welcomes us inside her home but we prefer to stay outside near a shade which is more conducive. At first glance, she doesn’t cut the picture of a somehow well off business lady, maybe it was the way she was dressed in kangas that made me think so which is a common and favorite cultural trend among women of Swahili origin at the Kenyan coast. As me and my colleague Eric engage her, she seems a little bit intrigued by our Swahili from Nairobi which is quite different from the Swahili normally spoken at the coast.
Fahamu started off her own transportation business in the year 2010, when she finally managed to get a lorry of her own which is a UD Nissan Diesel Tipper. Prior to purchasing her vehicle, she used to operate as an agent whereby she would get transportation business from firms around the area and then hire vehicles and carts to transport the merchandise at hand. Eventually she accumulated enough savings and with the help of some borrowed funds she got her own. She talks of her business with passion and is ever smiling as we interact; it’s hard to believe how far she has come. Fahamu’s first loan was worth KES 20,000 (180 Euros) which she borrowed at Yehu Microfinance Trust. She has grown over the years with the organisation and is now on her fifth loan amounting to KES 250,000 (2248 Euros) which is more than ten times of her first loan.
Apart from the transportation business, Fahamu also has other businesses which include re-sale of fuel in smaller quantities to motorcycle operators in the area who can’t afford to buy costly fuel in large quantities. In addition, she also deals in tobacco whereby she buys the leaves from farmers in her area and then sells them to the manufacturing firms. It emerges that this ever smiling lady has a strong work ethic behind her smile. She tells were it not for her months old baby that she is taking care of, we probably would have difficulty tracing her at that time of the day due to her numerous hustles.
Fahamu is married and has three children, the youngest one who is barely a few months old. Her husband works in the transport business too. Currently she has four employees and plans to add an additional two to assist in the operations of the growing business. Fahamu is happy with the loan which she used to further grow her transportation business. So far she has not had any difficulties repaying the loan despite its size as she is able to make a decent income. This is what she had to say on why she thinks some micro finance borrowers appear to be struggling when doing their repayments.
“In micro finance you must have objectives of borrowing; that is when you succeed.”
There you have it; purpose comes first before you go to borrow. We thank Fahamu for her time and it’s finally time for us to go and see another client before the sun goes down. She waves us goodbye and as usual with a smile on her face.