Microvending in Kenya

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Microlending is when small amounts of money are loaned to budding entrepreneurs. MicroVENDING is when small business owners sell tiny amounts of their product. This idea is taking off in the impoverished African nation of Kenya. From the Marketplace Entreprenuership Desk, Kitty Felde reports.

??? NAOIMI WAMBUGE: This is our oven. It has assisted us for a long time, that’s why it is wearing out.

KITTY FELDE: The kitchen equipment at Nairobi’s Cornerstone Faith Assembly Church wouldn’t pass muster at the Cordon Blue. But every day, catering students like Naoimi Wambuge use the ancient stove to toast peanuts. And bake queen cakes.

??? WAMBUGE: I guess you call them muffins.

Wambuge sells the snacks on the streets of Nairobi. The parish came up with the idea of helping people to become microvenders, sole proprietors selling small items to their neighbors.

It’s one way to counter Kenya’s 40 percent unemployment. Vendors sell an amount even the poorest Kenyans can afford: tiny packets of nuts and individual queen cakes for about a penny apiece.

It’s a model, borrowed from the multinational Unilever.

??? WHITNEY SCHNEIDMAN: That makes sense to me.

That’s consultant Whitney Schneidman. He was in charge of economic issues in sub-Saharan Africa in the Clinton Administration.

??? SCHNEIDMAN: It’s not infrequent that one will see packets of soap that may be good for two washes. I mean you’d never see something like that in the United States, but in Africa, it’s rather common to see.

Schneidman says it gets back to a basic business principle: economies of scale. You make a profit by selling something your customer can afford.

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Source: Marketplace (link opens in a new window)