From Breaking Ethnic Barriers To Building Ethical Businesses

Breaking Barriers, Building Ethical Businesses

He was the first guy seated in the boardroom when my friends and I arrived for a reflection session. He wore a blue cap, a checked short sleeved shirt, blue jeans and a calmly persona. Later, he told a catching story on breaking barriers, here is his story…


Kamau Julius knows from experience what negative ethnicity can do. The 2007/8 Post Election Violence (P.E.V) left Kiambiu segmented into sections of people of a given ethnic group. The boundaries were NOT to be crossed. The consequences for doing so at times, were fatal. People kept to their section, bitter and ready to fight. This was to end when CHF visited the area and helped form Kiambiu Youth for Peace and development network (KYPDN), and trained ten cohesion champions. Julius was one of them. Soon, there was peace in Kiambiu. But…


Julius, when giving his story poses a question, “What next after peace?” He explained that some people survived and thrived on the chaotic situation but when peace was restored in Kiambiu, their empty stomachs didn’t give them peace. “Something needed to be done and The Youth Banner brought in the desperately needed lifeline.” BEEP (Banner Economic Empowerment Program), is what Julius was talking about.


With encouragement from k3, a program manager from The Youth Banner, Julius rarely missed classes.


“Nilikua nafanya kazi kijuakali, sikujua eti kuna doo yangu na ya bizna” (I was going about my business unprofessionally; I didn’t know the difference between my money and business money). He comments about himself before the BEEP Classes. Afterwards, his business of selling movies, USB, memory cards and songs began to thrive so much that when he applied for a loan from The Youth Banner to boost his business, he got a higher amount than he thought he qualified. With the loan of Ksh 24,000/= he added his savings and this gave his business the much needed boost including buying a computer. He would later clear the loan and qualify for another loan of Ksh 30,000/=. He has since expanded his business. Adjacent to the movie shop, Julius has opened an electronics shop in which he has hired someone to operate as he stays back at the movie business, which interests him more.


Julius talks about the two major skills he lacked before training:

  1. A saving culture
  2. Record keeping, and offers to explain further on the records, “I would buy, sell, and would never know what brought in what. I didn’t know what was out of stock, what was bringing in more profits, but,” he concludes, “…I know better now.”


What is the Greatest Resource?

Daniel Osumba told his story in many ways. He donned a yellow T-Shirt written ‘…it is my responsibility’. There was this serious look about him. Everyone seemed to listen to him in those conversations before the formal reflection session. As a Zetech University student taking a diploma in community development, one would wonder why he went for the entrepreneurship training. When it was time to tell his story, I listened…


“…these trainings helped me a lot. I was able to open my own hotel business, something I wasn’t able to do with my continuing college education only.” And yes, to confirm how this knowledge had transformed him into a skillful entrepreneur, he was at some point forced to leave his business in the watch of someone else who hadn’t been trained and the budding business collapsed.

One begins to appreciate the value upon seeing that they can succeed where others fail. “We really appreciate what you people are doing.” he said in reference to the team of CHF and The Youth Banner which had convened this reflection session.


Armed with the arsenal of economic empowerment, Daniel is fighting a good fight against community conflicts, poverty and ignorance. I caught up with him later after the reflection session and I asked him what his best arrows in his quiver were.

He didn’t bat an eyelid. “I am using the economic empowerment slogan to pass the knowledge I acquired to help others in my community to become entrepreneurs too. I speak to business people, merry-go-round women groups, chamas, especially Canaan and Luvenant Self Help Groups.”


He highlights three things that are helping those that he trains

  1. Cultivating a saving culture
  2. How to write a business plan
  • Resource mobilization.


“All these things, I learnt from The Youth Banner trainings.” he says


Daniel is young and energetic, just like most young people in this community, some of whom engage in petty and sometimes violent crimes, besides being used by rogue politicians to fight for their personal gains. But he is different. He has been empowered to use his energy for his good, and he is using that to make his community better.

The Greatest Resource Is Human Resource… Taking Responsibility

The story of Thomas Okanga – Bone Craft Artist, Kibera

Starting a business is like climbing a mountain, where the peak is your success. A start up business is bound to face many challenges. For Thomas Okanga, a bone artisan in Kibera, capital was one of the major challenges he faced while trying to start his business.

I am a bone craft artist and my business deals with recycling of waste bones. We use these bones to produce jewellery such as necklaces, bangles, earrings and other artifacts.” Says Thomas.


In the year 2002, Thomas attended the technical training on bone craft. After he acquired the skills, he decided to start a business and was faced with the challenge of lack of capital to start. “I wanted to start a bone craft business but I did not have enough money. I went and got employed as a casual worker in a clothes export processing zone in Ruaraka. After working for 8 months, the company needed to downsize the number of employees and I was retrenched. This woke me up! At that time I only had 10,000 shillings. I tried to think of what I could do with the money,” explains Thomas.


In his quest to find a solution, Thomas happened to meet The Youth Banner trainers who were sensitizing the public on the BEEP training sessions around his home area of Nairobi’s Kibera informal settlement. “I came to know about The Youth Banner in the year 2013. The Youth Banner trainers came to our area to look for young people to train on entrepreneurship. I later joined The Youth Banner training sessions and that is where I was trained on various aspects of business.” says Thomas.


Like many start up business owners, Thomas had the will to start a business but lacked the basic knowledge on running one successfully. He had an idea but never had an actual plan of how he would like to run his business.


“During the training sessions, I was taught on the importance of record keeping and financial management in the business. I also learnt on how to write a business plan, how to market my business and how to develop a good customer relationship.”


Thomas underwent the training sessions in his home area and was able to start his own bone craft workshop. He says over time his business has transformed through the guidance he received from his trainers. Through the BEEP (Banner Economic Empowerment Program) classes, he learnt the importance of time management, record keeping and market research in a business. After the training he graduated and now manages his business and has employed young people in his workshop.


“My business has so far received two loans from Kiva Zip through The Youth Banner. I believe the reason why I have managed to repay these loans is because of record keeping in my business that has enabled me to pay in good time. the good thing about these loans is that they give you ample time to repay and it is interest free.” explains Thomas.


“This business has really improved my life. I am able to support my family and pay school fees for my children. This has been possible as I instilled financial discipline in my business. I put aside money for investing for the business and also for my personal needs. the only challenge I have faced in this business is the lack of sufficient market networks for my products. The market is dominated by middlemen who buy our products at a very cheap rate and later sell them at exorbitant prices to tourists.” he exclaims.


For Thomas, the future is bright as he now looks out to train and guide other young entrepreneurs on business management. “I urge The Youth Banner to continue helping young people and give them business knowledge through the training, to guide them even as they run their businesses like I did.” says Thomas.