“A Good Stepping Stone”



This remarkable personal story was posted by Sylvain Yameogo, one of our earliest members in the desert country of Burkina Faso, West Africa.  

The area where I live is called KOUDOUGOU. It is located in the western part of the country, 100km from the capital, Ouagadougou. As stated in this profile, my name if YAMEOGO Weindate Sylvain. I am 24 years old and am the oldest of a family of three children. I lost my father when I was nine, on December 15th 1996. After his death, my mother who was a housekeeper was forced to work even more in order to feed us. Our situation was made even more difficult with my younger brother’s illness. From this point on, I spent the summers working to help my mother and to pay school for my siblings and I. 

Our situation did not improve and my mother passed away from a long illness on September 13th 2003. After her death, I took on the responsibility of caring for my younger brother and sister. I continued to attend public school and obtained my license in 2009. After graduating, I enrolled in the geography program at the university level to better support my siblings in their schooling. I chose geography for the ability to quickly obtain a diploma even though my dream was to become a pharmacist. Unfortunately, an extended strike in the geography department affected the availability of classes. It became impossible to attend the regular program within the planned graduation timeframe. This situation was conflicting with my desire to help my brother and sister succeed. So I decided to start a small scale chicken farming business to occupy the free time created by the professor’s absences and the continuous strikes on campus. 

More importantly, I made this decision to create a revenue stream allowing me to fulfill my duties of oldest son to support my brother and sister. With the revenue from the enterprise, I am in a better position to provide for my brother and sister, pay for medical appointments and prescription medication for my ill brother. I also buy material needed for my geography training, internet access to be able to visit the Zidisha website, etc. I am very passionate about my small experience in chicken farming and am interested in turning it into a true professional and scientific career. 

In my opinion, the Zidisha concept constitutes a good stepping stone. Ambitious entrepreneurs like me don’t always have the opportunity to see our dreams come true since the access to credit is complicated in the country. First and foremost I would like to congratulate Zidisha. If their system didn’t exist it would need to be created. I am very motivated, ready for work and think of myself as an innovator. My hope is to be successful and be seen as a model for generations to come as an inspiration to develop my country and all of Africa.

To view more comments and Mr Yameogo’s original words in French, please visit his Zidisha Microfinance profile page.

What it Takes to Survive

What it Takes to Survive

By Traci Yoshiyama and Achintya Rai


This story was originally published in our ebook last fall.  At the time, Mr Mwathi was far in arrears and struggling to support his family.  Last month, he repaid his first Zidisha loan and raised a new one, which he reinvested in his business.  Last week, Mr Mwathi posted a note to thank his lenders: “Now i have increased my stock and business is cool.”

From barber, to shoe salesman, to water delivery boy, to the selling of eggs and sausages; often times this is the path one must take to survive in Kenya. Though he is only 23, John Mwathi has tried his hand at all of these jobs and more.

As we walk through the muddy unpaved streets of John’s Nairobi neighborhood, he points out his competition, a young man carting fifteen twenty-liter jugs of water. Water transport being a common business in this community, I ask John how he manages to get any customers. “Speed,” he replies. With a universal price of $0.12 per twenty-liter container of water, agility is what stands between you and the next guy.

By 4:00 PM, John retires from transporting goods and begins to set up his food stall in the market center. Customers are plentiful during the evening hours, for work has finished and appetites are high. On a good day, John is able to make as much as $6.30 from snack sales, though most of his income goes towards basic necessities and supporting his younger sister, who lives with John’s parents in their hometown in western Kenya, with school fees, food, and clothing.

He took a Zidisha loan of $204 to purchase a motorbike, which he intended to use as a taxi – a common business venture with the potential to offer a substantial step up in income for those who manage to acquire a vehicle. However the bike was of poor quality and needed frequent repair, and so did not give him the returns he expected. John finally sold the motorbike, and used the proceeds to relocate to Nairobi, where he hoped business opportunities would be more abundant.

In Nairobi he first tried opening a small barbershop. He used the front of his shop to sell shoes and also kept a small kiosk to sell steamed sausages and boiled eggs. The revenue from the haircutting and shoe sales being insufficient to cover the cost of renting the premises, John closed the shop after just a few months. John is now transporting water during the day with the help of his donkey and cart, and continues to sell boiled eggs and sausages in the evening.

I found John to be a very pleasant person. And even though he seemed a little shy in my presence, he was constantly smiling. He explained the economics of the sausage and eggs business to me in great detail. John’s future plan is to open a snack shop where he can sell hamburgers, cakes, biscuits and chips.

After hearing John talk about hamburgers and cakes I was obviously hungry so I decided to buy a sausage. John asked his friend, who was manning the cart at that moment, to move and prepared the sausage for me himself by slitting it and filing it with a salsa like preparation called kachumbari and sprinkling it with salt. It was delicious.

The inconsistency of income and the responsibility of supporting his family have made the repayment of his loan difficult. Having recently moved his egg and sausage business to a new neighborhood where nightlife proves better than in his first location, John is confident he will be able to repay his loan and would appreciate the opportunity to take out a second. He intends to use a second loan to open a snack shop, for acquiring stock is affordable and unlike the shoe or salon business, customers come on a daily basis.

The inevitable world of adulthood has its ups and downs, and as a young entrepreneur, John is still learning the tricks of his trade. Although unforeseen challenges have stifled his plans, John’s enthusiasm and good-natured spirit push him forward.

John’s words:

“This was my first loan and I overestimated my paying capacity. Also I moved from Nakuru to Nairobi and started a new business here… Also I have to support my little sister who is at my rural area with school fees, and also with pocket money for food [and] clothing.”

You may view more comments and photos at John’s Zidisha Microfinance profile page.


“thanks is to you all lender and the whole company at-large, was it not for you what had happened and what is already happening to date could have been a history .i never thought that one day my business will grow that big a and have a lot of client to an extent of employing someone to help me in serving all those client .i dont know how to say thanks to you people for trusting someone whom you even never seen or talk one on one by offering a loan.thanks once more for helping me .

i will not hesitate to update you.

– posted today by John Macharia, Cybercafe owner in Gilgil, Kenya

View Zidisha Microfinance profile page