Chicks and Computers.

Moses Mwangi is a college educated gentlemen living in Ongata Rongai, Kenya. Moses earned his degree in networking and repair maintenance. He is quite skilled with computers and programming. Moses runs a poultry business raising chickens for resale. Moses started his business because he identified a consumer trend that is moving away from red meat.

Recently Moses met with our in country Client Relationship Manager Achintya Rai. Here is what Achintya said about their recent encounter:

Hello lenders,

My name is Achintya Rai and I am Zidisha’s current client relationship intern for Kenya. I recently met Moses Mwangi at his home and had the chance to see his poultry business and talk to him and his mother Esther Kimemia.

Moses went to college after finishing his schooling to do a diploma in networking and repair maintenance and is a skilled computer technician. He is an expert in repair and maintenance of computers and is also well versed with programming. Apart from looking after his poultry business, he also works as a part time technician in the Multimedia University nearby and also helps in the business of his friend and another Zidisha client Samuel Njoroge. 

Moses used his Zidisha loan to buy one day old chicks. These were 5 days old when I visited him and were very cute to look at. I think there were about 70 of them. They had just started changing color from yellow and each had a small white spot.

The poultry business is mostly taken care of by Moses’ mother Esther who is one of the wittiest persons I have met in Kenya. She kept coming up with one-liners the whole time I was there. The first thing she did after shaking hands with me was chastising Moses for not offering me water. When I asked Moses how old he was, he turned to Esther who remarked- “how would I know?” When I asked Moses if he had any plans to get married, he said “soon” and Esther added “but not tomorrow!”

With the next loan they plan to buy rabbits. Esther told me that there are many breeds of rabbits available in the market but the ones she will buy will be the largest ones because she likes “big big things”.

Moses says that he’s a farmer at heart and will buy a shamba (farm) as soon as he can. His immediate plan is to start his own repair business, which he plans to begin within a few months. While walking back I asked him why doesn’t he start a small hardware training school. He could provide short-term training to other students, who would PAY HIM to work in his shop. This made him laugh and he said he’s seriously going to consider the idea.

I had a very interesting time with Moses and Esther and I wish them the best for their future (which I have no doubt will be great, because that’s how it always is for people with such positive outlooks to life)

22nd March 2012
Nairobi, Kenya

A Brief History of the Recent Political Situation in Senegal

Recently, unrest in Senegal has caused several Zidisha borrowers to undergo extenuating business circumstances. Many lenders may not be familiar with the current political situation in Senegal. So I thought it would be beneficial to offer a brief history of recent developments in Senegalese politics.

Current Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, of the Senegalese Democrat Party (PDS), has been in office since winning in a second round election in 2000. After two terms, President Wade is seeking an unprecedented third term as President, despite wide spread political unrest.

Initially, presidential terms in Senegal were limited to seven years. In 2001 Senegal adopted a new constitution, this limited presidential terms to 5 years. However, this new standard would not be put into place until President Wade’s first term was over in 2007.

President Wade

President Wade successfully won his bid for a second term as president on October 15, 2006. By successfully winning the majority during the first round, President Wade avoided a runoff election. The main opposition party to the PDS, the Rewmi Party, led by former Prime Minister (formally under President Wade) Idrissa Seck, and other presidential candidates from minority parties, disputed these results and ultimately boycotted the elections to the National Assembly (Senegalese equivalent to the U.S House of Representatives), and the Senate. President Wade was eventually sworn in for his second term on April 3, 2007.

In July 2008, the Senegalese National Assembly reversed the five year presidential term limit back to seven years. This would not take effect during President Wade’s second term as president. It did however, open the possibility of Wade running for a third consecutive term.

On September 17, 2009, it was announced that President Wade was indeed seeking a third term as president. On January 27, 2012 the constitutional amendment, sought by President Wade, was approved by the constitutional congress, allowing him to run for a third term. This announcement brought widespread political unrest, and counter-protests by those loyal to President Wade, deepening political divisions in the country. The presidential elections took place on February 26, 2012. Incumbent candidate Wade won the majority of votes, but not the majority needed to avoided a runoff election. The runoff election between President wade, and second place finisher Macky Sall, are scheduled to take place on March 25, 2012.

During this time of unrest, many Zidisha borrowers have been having a difficult time. Protests are preventing some of our borrowers from conducting business as usual, severely reducing their income. Others, in areas away from the protests, are also experiencing slower sales, which are attributed to fear of further political unrest and the potential for violent protests. We continue to monitor the situation in Senegal, and hope for the unrest to settle after the results of the runoff election are announced and verified. We will continue to update the Zidisha community on the situation in Senegal.

The Next Bill Gates

Aissatou TraoreAissatou Traore is a borrower living in Dakar, Senegal. Madame Traore is a widowed mother  who works to support her son and mother. Mme. Traore is a partner with the American company Forever Living, based in Arizona. Forever Living sells its aloe vera, and various other health products, through a network of independent distributors across the globe. Madame Traore sells the Forever Living products in her surrounding area to a number of customers.

Mme. Traore used her Zidisha loan to purchase $780 worth of inventory from Forever Living in order to boost her income. Tragically, thieves broke into  her home and stole all of the inventory she’d purchased. This did not stop the resolute Mme. Traore.

Read more about Madame Traore from Zidisha’s own Director Julia Kurnia, who recently wrote about their meeting in Senegal.

Dear all,

I was fortunate to have the occasion to meet with Madame Traore at the Senegal headquarters of Forever Living, a direct selling company that produces aloe vera and other natural health products. Forever Living is based in Arizona, but markets its products through a worldwide network of tens of thousands of independent distributors, including Mme Traore.

Mme Traore is the sole breadwinner for her elderly mother and fourteen-year-old son, who she hopes will have the chance to go to university in Europe or the US someday. She has a genius for marketing, and our conversation soon turned to the benefits of her products. She gave a riveting presentation, skillfully weaving international statistics, personal experience and client success stories into a mesmerizing narrative that left me thoroughly convinced that aloe vera toothpaste is, after all, a must-have staple of good oral health. 

Mme Traore used her Zidisha loan of $780 to purchase a large inventory of Forever Living products, which ought to have boosted her earnings substantially. Unfortunately, most of the inventory was lost to a thief who broke into her home and stole her stock before she had the chance to sell it. Completely out of money to buy new stock but undeterred, Mme Traore contacted her best clients one by one and offered a deal: she would give them a special discount if they would agree to pay in advance for the products, rather than upon delivery. She used the advances to restart selling, at a profit margin that was razor thin due to the discounts. She makes up for the narrow profits with volume: her notebook contains the names of several hundred clients, many of whom are located in rural villages a day’s journey from Dakar city. On the days she “goes into the bush” to deliver her products to the villages, Mme Traore wakes up at four in the morning to prepare the day’s meals for her fourteen-year-old son, and returns home as late as one o’clock the following night. This strategy has enabled Mme Traore to slowly reconstitute her working capital, while also making regular repayment installments on her Zidisha loan, which is now 78% repaid.

She seemed completely undeterred by all of these obstacles. By way of explanation, Mme Traore cited the example of Bill Gates: he started on a small scale as well, and she is simply doing the same. She is a voracious reader. On the day we met, she was reading a French translation of “The Leader in You” by Dale Carnegie. Mme Traore said she was inspired by Mr Carnegie’s idea that there is a “mine of gold” inside each one of us, and that the best way to fully realize our potential is to develop our own business. She values her freedom, and says that nothing can stop her from reaching her ambitions.


Julia Kurnia
Director, Zidisha Inc.

Future Plans…

Ouréye Faye is an entrepreneurial mother from Dakar, Senegal. She not only supports her three daughters and her son, but also the families of her brothers and sisters. Being the oldest member of her family carries many responsibilities! Mrs. Faye studied dressmaking, knitting, and embroidery, she earned degrees for each. After receiving her degrees she started her own sewing company making boubous (see picture).

Our in-country Client Relationship Manager, Stephen, recently wrote about his meeting with Mrs. Faye. Read about their encounter below:

Hello Lenders,

Friday, I had a wonderful experience with Oureye Faye. She apologized for not finishing her last payment sooner but wants to thank the lenders from the bottom of her heart for everything that she has been able to accomplish with this loan. 

From the 400,000cfas loan that she received with the help of Zidisha, Madame Faye was able to buy a new sewing machine which she uses for her booba making business that is a very popular industry in Dakar. She buys her fabric from Mali because it’s the best quality and she makes boobas and sells the rest of the fabric in Senegal. She now has three sewing machines

Madame Faye has also used her money to invest in education. In Senegal, the public education system has a reputation for not being the most efficient in terms of quality and outcome. With the funds Madame Faye has earned, she has been able to put her 4 children through private school. Even though Madame Faye is married, she is the main provider of her household. She explained to me that every morning she wakes up at 5 a.m. and works until 9 p.m. The majority of her earnings are for her children, her main priority. However, she also pays for the gas bill. Even though Madame Faye is married she is obligated to work like most women in Senegal because consistent salaries are not guaranteed. One works today and possibly tomorrow.

Future Plans 
For a future project, Madame Faye explained that she would to love buy a glass door and some furnishings to organize her shop and display her work. This will also enable her to work very close to home. She has big plans for this project and is ready to take her business to the next level. 

Client Relationship Manager Intern

From the Ground Up

Rose Karanja

Rose Karanja is from Ongata Rongai, Kenya. Rose has had a difficult life. But when times got hard, Rose blossomed. Being a single women raising two younger siblings is no easy feat by any means. Consider the fact that Rose then decided to enter the male dominated construction industry, and you can start to get an idea of Ms. Karanja’s tenacity and work ethic.

Our in-country Client Relationship Manager, Achintya Rai, recently met with Ms. Karanja. Read about his encounter with Rose below:

Hello lenders,

My name is Achintya Rai and I am Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Manager. This Friday (9th March 2012) I visited Rose Karanja at one of her building sites in Ongata Rongai near Nairobi.

Rose is a beautiful young woman whose is a fascinating story of grit and entrepreneurial spirit. Rose’s mother died when she was young and she was brought up by her grandmother. When Rose was in from four (the last year of secondary school) her grand mother also passed away. She has been working since then to take care of her two siblings.

She started by supplying food to people working on construction sites. That is how she learnt about the construction business, traditionally considered a forte of men. She saw an opportunity and started a construction material supply business. Rose is a very confident and pleasant person and I can visualize her as a great networker. She made contacts that helped her get business. She got a contract to supply ballast (small pieces of stone), which she fulfilled by buying stones and then hiring labor to break them into small pieces. With the proceeds she bought sand and supplied in small quantities. Later she started sourcing sand directly from the rivers and her business grew. 

Her Zidisha loan was used to buy sand, ballast and other supplies. 

Recently, because of her contacts and good work, she also got contracts to build two houses on a plot of ½ acres. Rose seemed delighted with this development and is going to focus on the construction business as a priority. This new contract will entail hiring an engineer (which could cost 100,000 to 150,000 shillings a year), buying material, hiring labor and overseeing the construction work. 

With her next Zidisha loan, Rose wants to buy a vibrator machine, which is used to mix concrete. In the future, when she has sufficient funds, she wants to go back to school and get a degree in Civil Engineering (she has shortlisted a University in Uganda) and then start her own construction company.

I see in Rose the making of a great businesswoman and armed with her networking skills, business acumen and glittering smile, she is sure to be an entrepreneur to be reckoned with. And she is just 28.

11th March 2012
Nairobi, Kenya 

Old Friends

Ndeye Bineta Sarr is a wife and mother of three children from Dakar, Senegal. We have many borrowers from Senegal. However, Ndeye has the unique distinction of being the very first borrower to have her loan financed through Zidisha! Madame Sarr used her loan to buy a sewing machine that is able to embroider using larger types of thread. Allowing her to craft the beautiful boubous (See picture to the right) that many women in Senegal wear everyday. With her loan, Madame Sarr was also able to hire an assistant, and plans to produce mens’ boubous in the future. Our Director, and Founder, Julia Kurnia met with Ndeye just yesterday. Despite being robbed, dealing with power outages, and having her building demolished, Madame Sarr is striving! Read about Julia’s meeting with Ndeye below:

Dear lenders,

I’m Julia, director of Zidisha. I was fortunate to be in Dakar, today, and took advantage of the occasion to visit our first client in Senegal, Madame Ndeye Bineta Sarr. 

Madame Sarr met me at the edge of the paved road, and even though it was the first time we met she greeted me as affectionately as an old friend. As we wound our way through the dusty dirt paths of her neighborhood, she introduced me to various local households who had benefited indirectly from her business: a cloth dealer in the nearby market, a little boutique stacked high with reels of yarn in every imaginable color, and a small sewing shop to which she sometimes outsources less specialized aspects of clothing manufacture. 

West Africa is famous for its vibrant traditional clothing, and many women in Dakar make a living from sewing traditional dresses. Yet in this competitive market, Madame Sarr has carved out a niche for herself thanks to sheer artistic genius. Her creations never fail to turn heads: multicolored skirts sparkling with embroidered stars, hand-knitted lace, and overlapping layers of transparent gauze, imposing folded headdresses with brightly dyed cloth tied in the shape of flowers, necklines in every imaginable geographic shape. Clients fortunate enough to own one of her outfits guard it for special occasions, and when they put it on appear to float above the rest of us in this world, suddenly immune to the billowing clouds of red dust and car exhaust that choke the air. If she had been born in another time and place, Madame Sarr could have easily handled the royal wardrobe of the court of Versailles.

Madame Sarr’s house is constructed in the typical Dakar style: three brightly painted bedrooms alongside a small open courtyard, a separate shed for a kitchen and another for the restroom, corrugated metal roof, and a little faucet in the courtyard which provides the household’s only running water. The whole place was irreproachably clean and Madame Sarr’s artistic touch could be seen in the potted flowers and colored tiles decorating the courtyard. In all some thirty people – including Madame Sarr’s mother, siblings, nieces and nephews, and her own three children – live together in that house.

Madame Sarr used capital raised from Zidisha to buy an electric sewing machine, rent a boutique workshop, hire an employee, and establish a working capital fund that allows her to fill up to a dozen client orders at a time (up from one or two at a time before her first loan). This has allowed her to increase her income dramatically, making her the main breadwinner for her household and allowing the family to invest in public school education up to the university level for Madame Sarr’s children, nieces and nephews. 

Madame Sarr suffered a setback earlier this year when the building housing her workshop was demolished. She adapted by lending the sewing machine to her employee who uses it to assemble outfits that are cut and embroidered by hand by Madame Sarr in her home. Madame Sarr intends to open a new workshop soon. She certainly has no shortage of clients. When asked how she advertises, she laughs and says she simply dresses herself and her children in her creations and waits for people to inquire where in Dakar they can go to buy such extraordinary outfits.

Class is in!

Theresia Kabiti is the mother of three children living in Nairobi, Kenya. After working in several private education institutions she came to the realization that local children weren’t receiving quality early childhood education because of costly school fees that poor families just couldn’t afford to pay.

This caused many children to seek schooling by shady business people who sought to exploit their situation. With the current situation unacceptable, Theresia took action! She and several other concerned locals established “The Terrian School”. Parents were asked to pay a small fee (equal to $5.50/month) to help sustain the teachers, many of whom are volunteers. Even if parents can’t afford the small fee, NO child is ever turned away from The Terrian School.

Our in country Client Relationship Manager, Achintya Rai, recently meet up with Theresia. Read about their meeting below:

Hello lenders,

My name is Achintya Rai and I am Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Manager.

On Tuesday (6th March 2012) I visited Theresia Kabiti. Theresia stays in an area called Githunguri in Embakasi where she runs a small school. The name of her school is Terrian Academy. She currently has classes from nursery to standard three. 

Earlier Theresia used to teach in a school. She found that in her area many people were not sending their children to schools because the school fees were high. Most of these people worked as laborers on daily wages. Theresia decided to start a school to facilitate education among the poor. She told me that when she started she had to go door to door to tell people about her school. Her first class had just 5 students. Today her school has about 80 students and every time she adds a class, this number goes up by 15 or 20. While the other schools in the area charge about 2000 shillings per month, she charges just 500 shillings as fees. 

Apart from running her school, Theresia is also pursuing a diploma in early childhood development. She will pursue a degree in the same area after she has finished her diploma and wants to then apply for a government job as a teacher. If that works out she will hire someone to run the school

Theresia used her Zidisha loan to construct on the plot of land she was renting for the school. She recently purchased a plot of her own where construction of semi-permanent classrooms has already begun. She wants to use the next Zidisha loan to construct a permanent building on her plot.

Theresia has two daughters and one son. Two of her children study in boarding schools and the youngest daughter studies in her school. When I asked her if her daughter gets any preferential treatment being the principal’s daughter, she laughed and said no. The little daughter wants to be a pilot and Theresia hopes to be able, with the help of Zidisha loans, to afford the high aviation college fees.

The best thing about Theresia’s school is that they have PE (Physical Education) class everyday. This is when the children are allowed to run free. If I were a parent doing hard physical labor the whole day, even I’d insist on the school tiring my kids before sending them home. 

I also saw the whole class of nursery students sleeping, not because the subject was boring but because it was their nap class. I tried to be quiet while taking a picture, but some smart ones did manage to sneak a peek at the camera.

9th March 2012
Nairobi, Kenya