Strengthening resilience of small businesses through access to knowledge and finance in Turkana County

Under the PROSPECTS programme, the ILO and its partners are imparting business management skills to upskill enterprises owned by refugee and host communities in Turkana County, Kenya.

News | 13 January 2022
Ms Balabala Ndume, owner of a small shop and a financial and business literacy training participant with trainer Ms Melisa Maimuna of KNCCI   ©ILO
Many refugees and members of the host community in Turkana County, Kenya, are involved in small-scale enterprises. However, the lack of guidance on establishing and operating a small business often restricts their growth or even leads to their closure in some cases. ILO PROSPECTS and its partners have thus prioritized capacity development of refugee and host communities on business management skills to upskill small and medium enterprises.

These activities are aligned with the priorities set within ILO’s third Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) 2021-24 for Kenya, which aims to increase access to decent jobs, income and entrepreneurship outcomes for marginalised vulnerable groups and regions of the country.

Ms Caroline Njuki, Chief Technical Advisor of the ILO PROSPECTS programme in Kenya, explained: “Many in the refugee and host communities are often unable to access skills development, employment and self-employment opportunities due to limited social security coverage and challenges with their legal status. The PROSPECTS trainings are thus aimed at providing professional, non-formal and market-relevant learning opportunities to equip host and refugee communities with relevant skills for entrepreneurship and employability.”

ILO’s globally acclaimed tools, such as the Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB), Gender and Entrepreneurship Together (GET Ahead) and Financial Education training programmes, are steering this development of entrepreneurial skills and promotion of start-ups in this community.

Capacity development on business management skills 

In November and December 2021, the first round of training was rolled out with support from the local chapter of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI). The Turkana Chamber of Commerce (TCC) focused on financial and business literacy components including budgeting, financial goal setting, record keeping and others.

Mr Francis Edome, CEO, TCC, said: “These training activities are in line with our membership services and will ensure that we have more empowered and resilient SMEs with adequate capacity to run their businesses.”

Among the workshop participants was Mr Balabala Ndume, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who owns and runs a kiosk (a small shop) in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Turkana. He explained: “I believe the thing that makes businesses fail is a lack of education. Once you gain that knowledge and understanding, you can run your business properly. How can you learn how to keep records, without being taught? If someone takes something on credit and you don’t keep any records, you will forget what is owed, and you will not collect your debt. That is why I am thankful for this training, which has taught me record keeping.”

Attempts by refugees and the host community to start and operate new businesses have led to failure for some in Kakuma Camp, discouraging aspirants from taking up the entrepreneurship path. Ms Rachel Achol Deng from South Sudan, who participated in the financial education training pointed out that: “From what I have seen in Kakuma, people want to try and open businesses, but they don’t have the knowledge and some of them fail because they don’t know [how] to manage their business.”

Ms Rachel Achol Deng in her shop in Kakuma Camp  ©ILO
Rachel faced several challenges when she owned a small grocery shop in Kakuma Camp where she sold vegetables and other food items. Her customers would buy items on credit, and she was not able to follow up and collect the money and, as a result, her business failed. She continued: “From the training, I learned how to manage my money and save for tomorrow. With those savings, I can put my child in school and save some for food. I also learned how to leave some money aside to buy more [stock] for the shop. I have added new products such as hair extensions, which have local demand and bring in more customers.”

In the long run, Rachel, who is an experienced hairdresser, dreams of opening a hair salon of her own and has now started planning for it.

To date, ILO PROSPECTS has strengthened the capacity of over 20 trainers and through them over 150 refugees and members of host communities on SIYB and Financial Education in Turkana County.

Mr Pius Ewoton, Chairman of the TCC, observed: “Through our partnership, we have experienced real economic integration between refugees and the host community. More refugee traders are engaging in business as opposed to sitting back and waiting for aid. They are being now perceived locally as investors.”

With the host community now selling commodities, such as firewood, charcoal and livestock, to refugees and, in turn, refugees engaging in major businesses like groceries, retail and electronic shops, where the host community are buying from them, their integration has become evident.

In December 2021, the ILO and TCC jointly carried out a five-day training on SIYB. The participants were recent graduates from the Alliance Centre of Technology, a refugee-led institution in Kakuma, who had received training in ICT skills.
Mr Deng Deng Ving, SIYB training participant from Kakuma ©ILO 

Mr Deng Deng Ving from South Sudan, a participant of the SIYB training, is an entrepreneur who runs a car wash and operates a Boda Boda (motorcycle transport) business. He shared the following reflection: “I have come to learn a lot on marketing my business. It is something important that I now understand. I have been having challenges with my car wash and I realized where I placed my business was the problem. I am now planning to [re]locate my business and see if this will improve things. I also learned that I need to improve the pricing of our services to establish a better, more acceptable relationship with my customers.”

At the end of the training, Deng and other graduates developed individual business plans, ranging from solar energy distribution, making organic fertilizers to mobile phone repairs.

Business support and access to finance

From March to October 2021, ILO PROSPECTS, in partnership with the TCC, carried out a mapping of businesses in the county. The mapping sought to profile the type of businesses, their exposure to business training, access to finance and identify challenges in their business operations.
The mapping exercise identified 7,159 businesses in the County, out of which 1,500, including 120 refugee-owned businesses, have now registered with the TCC. These businesses are now benefiting from the chamber’s services, including business information services, market access through business networking and opportunities, advocacy for the members to ensure a better business environment and others.

Mr Francis Edome, CEO, TCC, explained: “With the frequent round table engagements with UNHCR and Refugees Affairs Secretariat, challenges such as movement restrictions for refugee traders have been smoothened. Refugees were informed about what is expected from them to obtain a movement pass that will enable them go to any part of Kenya to either buy or sell commodities.”

To promote financial inclusion of refugees and host communities, a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the ILO, UNHCR and local micro-finance institutions (MFIs) in August 2021. Through this MoU, three MFIs — Credit Factory, SMEP Microfinance Bank, and Longitude Finance— have committed to extend their services to refugees and host communities in Turkana County.

“Refugees and some host communities remain underserved by the financial sector. Financial service providers lack information on their income and credit risks, making it a difficult business case for them to serve,” said Lilyanne Ndinda, National Programme Coordinator for Enterprise, ILO PROSPECTS Kenya.

The PROSPECTS Partnership will provide technical support to these MFIs to better serve and respond to refugee needs, including by developing new products for the target population.

“We believe that refugee settlements have the potential to be vibrant cities, just like urban settlements, with sizable markets and sustainable businesses. The PROSPECTS Partnership is well positioned to promote a more concerted market-based engagement required to achieve this growth and sustainability by engaging private and public actors. More importantly, the growth of small businesses will bring in additional income and, in turn, prosperity for all,” concluded Ms Njuki.

Start and Improve Your Business Programme (SIYB)

SIYB training participants from the Alliance Centre of Technology, a refugee-led institution in Kakuma  ©Turkana Chamber of Commerce

The objective of the ILO’s SIYB approach is to contribute to economic development and to the creation of new and better jobs to enable local Business Development Service (BDS) organizations, and among them explicitly women's organizations, to effectively and independently implement business start-up and improve training and related activities for potential and existing entrepreneurs; and to enable potential and existing small entrepreneurs, both women and men, through these BDS organizations to start viable businesses and to increase the viability and profitability of existing enterprises, and to create quality employment for others in the process. Read more.