At least 16 small scale traders in Kisumu have benefitted from Sh2.5 million grant from Polish government to boost their businesses.
The boost as come at a time the businesses are facing harsh impacts of Covid-19 which has seen many of them record reduced earning.
Yesterday, Polish Ambassador to Kenya Jacek Bazanski presided over the close of a mentorship program which involved skilling the traders on innovative ways of conducting their trade.
“This initiative is aimed at helping the small entrepreneurs to modernize production through the Polish Aid Funds,” said Jacek.
The project undertaken by Somo, a local Non-governmental organization has been recruiting small scale traders, understanding their needs and training them on how to modernize their businesses and then giving them funding in terms of grants or loans.
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According to Somo Founder Amelia Phillips, the program was mooted following surveys which indicated that many of the vulnerable groups have ideas on how to improve their lives, and only lacked the necessary skills and support.
“Many organizations come with programs of supporting the vulnerable, but fail since the ideas are imposed on the people. This program involves listening to the people, and helping improve on the ideas they have,” she said.
Project Operations Manager Wilikister Awuor said the program in Kisumu targets to support at least 115 traders by the end of the year.
She said the program targets businesses which have social impact in the society such as health, education, and food security.
The group conducts outreaches through youth groups and local administrators such as chiefs, and then get forums where the community is engaged in ideation in terms of business transformation.
After a rigorous evaluation, the traders pitch their business transformation plan, which if approved, is financed with the traders getting between Sh50, 000 to Sh185, 000.
“We then walk with the traders and help them expand so as to create employment and impact on the lives of others. It targets anybody above the age of 18, and who is engaged in any form of economic activity,” she said.
The Polish Ambassador confirmed that his government has been traversing the country to support a number of life transforming programs, and was willing to increase funding for such projects.
He said with the country facing high rate of unemployment worsened by the impacts of Coronavirus, there is need to invest in the small scale businesses.
“I would be glad to see people invest in health more, because this is an area we did not get a business pitch,” he said during the event held at Somo Centre in Nyalenda Slums.
Steve Okumu, 34, who makes baskets from water hyacinth is one of the beneficiaries of the program, and is expecting to get his allocation in January 2021.
“I joined this initiative three month ago after I got wind of it through a friend who had benefitted, and I have learnt a lot during the training and mentorship period. The way I run my business is not the same again,” he said.
His sentiments were echoed by Mona Atieno, another beneficiary who makes packaging bags from recycled plastic bags.
“The skills I have gained are priceless, and I believe my business is taking a different trajectory,” she said.