Feature: Kenyan women firm grip on small businesses

Source: Xinhua| 2019-07-24 21:58:47|Editor: xuxin
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NAIROBI, July 24 (Xinhua) -- Small businesses in Kenya have turned out to be a domain of women as thousands start them to eke out a living.

The women are running all manner of businesses in the east African nation, thanks to mentorship from other women, resilience and ease in access to capital.

Some of the businesses the women are running include household goods shops, grocery stores, secondhand clothes, shoes and utensils stalls, food kiosks, fish mongering, grains stores, mobile money agencies, milk bars and salons.

The businesses stand out at shopping centers and markets in both urban and rural areas of the east African nation.

So dominant are the women traders that in markets and shopping centers in the capital Nairobi, one counts a handful of men-run businesses amongst tens of those operated by women.

At Muthurwa market in Nairobi, a survey on Tuesday showed that women dominate the businesses at the county government facility.

And so is the case in many suburbs like Kitengela, Donholm, Githurai, Rongai and Mlolongo on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Caorline Akoth, 47, is among thousands of women running small businesses in Kenya.

Akoth, who runs a shop in Kitengela, has been at it for over a decade, and has inspired several other women to join the trade.

"Running a business is not a bad idea at all for a woman because it gives you financial freedom, makes you productive and you spend your time well," she said on Tuesday.

She started the business with 2,000 shillings (20 U.S. dollars), capital her husband gave her.

"At first it was not easy and the shop collapsed twice because I had no experience in running such a business but my husband supported me," she said.

Akoth later joined two women's groups through which they started table-banking, a concept where members contribute money monthly or weekly and then take loans.

"Most of the women you see doing business are in groups, which either run a merry-go-round or a table-banking from where they easily get some 10 or 30 dollars to start or expand businesses," she said.

Besides the groups, the women are also able to access loans from micro-finance institutions, many of which target them thanks to their love for togetherness, making it easier to work with them.

Grace Mutuku, who runs a grocery store in Komarock on the east of Nairobi, said she started the business after being inspired by a colleague in a women's group.

Today, it's over five years since she got into business and her husband joined her after seeing the profits from the business.

"From a vegetable store, we now run also a household shop and a grains store. I man the shop, while he runs the others with the help of two workers," she said.

As the women in the informal sector firm their grip on small micro-enterprises, a majority of Kenyan men both in rural and urban areas have embraced motorbike taxi business.

In urban areas, a good number are into touting, construction work, motor vehicle mechanics, carpentry and welding.

There are about a million motorbikes in the east African nation, according to Motorcycle Assemblers Association of Kenya, most of which are operated by men, earning at least 10 dollars a day.

Ernest Manuyo, a business lecturer at Pioneer Institute in Nairobi, attributed the dominance of women in small businesses to their resilience and ready access to capital.

"Unlike men, women can access capital from various sources, which include their groups, financial institutions or from their men. But that is not enough, what stands out is that women have the patience to run small businesses unlike men," he said.

A 2016 survey done by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics showed that out of the cumulative 7.41 million micro and small businesses surveyed in Kenya, some 6 million were run by women and majority of them were not registered.

The businesses, however, according to KNBS, were not only offering employment but also offered steady income.