Across the country, Kenyans are moving up and down, trying to make ends meet. While people are looking for jobs, there are clear signs that individuals and groups, based on what brings them together, are thinking investment and entrepreneurship.
This has lifted ‘chamas’ (investment schemes) to vantage positions where membership contributes small amounts of money daily, weekly or monthly to pull resources together and invest in available opportunities.
People invest in shares, at the stocks market or buy land to build either residential or commercial premises.
One of the groups that dot the country is that of motor-cycle taxis, otherwise known as boda bodas.
They are many and can access every part, reports of accidents notwithstanding.
In Kisumu, boda operators are a sight to behold.
The boda boda riders and those earning from transportation activities in Kisumu County are more than 100,000, according to my own estimates.
They may only be second to small-scale farmers in numbers but are certainly the leading organised informal group of traders. They are organised in groups or saccos, according to where they pick up customers from.
Because of their numbers, they get attention from the political class, something that has given them sheds by the county governments from where they can wait for the next client.
These sheds are dubbed ‘development’, however, more should be done in organising and supporting them.
This group can immensely change the county fortunes and increase their investment power and standard of living with some refocusing.
Just like county officials traverse the regions and countries looking for investors and top talent to revamp key areas like water and the environment, the same should be extended to the boda boda business.
Their groups should form sacoos and even small banks.
Boda boda people require liquidity for monthly or annual payments for crucial documents like licensing and insurance.
Their own financiers would better know how to design the right products for credit access and smooth operations.
Ward-level groups need to come together to form a single entity in the sub-county to form something like Kisumu County Boda Boda Savings, Credit and Investments Organisation.
This body will manage deposits, pay for licences, pay for health insurance (NHIF) premiums, offer credit facilities to the members at best rates, and invest the contributions.
READ: App to help boda bodas keep on the right side of the law
Extending credit is important especially because of the interest rate regime is now hanging between interest rates capping and an open system.
I support the capping, but it was designed to fail. Should it be reviewed, the new regime must take care of the small borrower, like the boda boda people.
They suffered under the previous system, but are even worse off under the caps system, because they are avoided by the financiers like the plague, something that is pushing them to the more expensive shylocks.
When these operators invest in many sectors, it would trigger cash flow and the effect on other sectors of the county economy.
This should lead to faster economic growth when their groups think about other enterprise opportunities.
In Kisumu County, it would be possible to buy one of the State sugar millers — Miwani or Muhoroni — when they are eventually offered for sale, something that has been on the cards for many years.
Why should such prime businesses go to other investors while, through right organising, the local peole could own the plants and the multi-million shilling enterprises?
Kisumu could learn from the success stories of the Luo Thrift Union on how local people can run a business. Over to you, county executives.