So you think you work long hours? You put in 10-12 hours a day – not every day of course but from Monday to Friday. That’s alright, and you can allow yourself to be proud of your contribution to society. But please meet Mama Anne from Nairobi, she works from five in the morning till nine in the evening. That’s 16 hours, and we’re not talking a five-day week here, it’s every day. One exception though: she goes to church every Sunday. But her shop doesn’t close, she has a helper to fill in for the few hours the mass takes.
Maybe that’s why she’s listening to religious radio all the time. Hoping and praying that things will get better. When we visited, it was about the second coming of Jesus. Mama Anne’s shop is a little one, one of those businesses you see all over the place selling a few necessities like bread, milk, biscuits, sweets and airtime, and when you see it, you wonder how to make a living out of it. It’s situated in a street off one of the busy main streets where all the businesses and markets are.
-But that’s an advantage, says Mama Anna, I have no competition here, I’m the only shop in this street. The back side of that is that I have a long way to go for my goods.
I’m visiting her in a part of town called Kawangware along with Bayollah Malesi from the MYC4 office in Nairobi and Hellen Awino from SISDO (smallholder irrigation scheme development organization), who is no longer in a partnership with MYC4.
Mama Anne makes a profit of 5-7000 Kenyan Shillings a day (60-80 USD), which is not bad. She has been the proud owner since 1997, and like with most people I talk to when I visit borrowers they work hard because of their children. Mama Anne and her husband, who has four taxis, have three children, one in primary school and two in secondary school. Two of them are in boarding schools far away in the western part of Kenya. School fees are big, for one of her children Mama Anne pays Kshs 38000 per three-month term (430 USD).She got her first loan in 2012 and is now on her third, and according to herself they have really improved her business. She wants a fourth loan for 100.000 Kshs (1250 USD), and chances are good that she’ll get it, because she’s very reliable, Hellen Awino tells me. She has several plans for her life: She would like the shop to grow into a real supermarket one day, and she also plans to buy a plot and build a house for renting. In Kawangware you can rent a one-room apartment from Kshs 2000 a month (23 USD).
The borrowers must make savings every week, at least 50 cent. Savings are key if they apply for a second loan. First time borrowers are trained for weeks where they learn how to manage their business. The borrowers are in a group, where they guarantee for each other, and members can get pretty upset if one of them cannot pay.
That’s not the case with Mama Anne, she’s on track with her payments and always has been. And she knows why.
”I only work and eat – no time for anything else”, she says. I’ll bet you cannot say the same.