New Business in Kawangware

Since its implementation, 8 months ago, Gatina-Pesa in Nairobi's Kawangware slum has had various benefits to its members. Some of them have seen their number of customers increase while others have seen improvements in their daily sales. By spending their Kenyan Shillings and supplementing a small percentage of this with Gatina-Pesa, these members are able to trade with each other even when Kenyan Shillings are scarce - hence allowing more wealth to be created within the network.

To increase the circulation of this currency, the majority of the members have embraced the principle of reciprocity which makes them both suppliers and customers of each other.

Another impact is identified by a barber who is a member of the Gatina Business Organization (GBO), on the regularity of his customers. Members of the business network tend to use more Gatina-Pesa during harder economic times, such as mid-month.

Since its inception, the GBO has been running a common savings program that allows members to get involved in a merry-go-round (a traditional credit scheme widespread in Kenya). The members willing to participate were required to save at least Ksh. 200 ($2) every month. Having saved a considerable amount of money, these members recently decided to start a loaning program. So far, 6 members of the GBO have received loans between Ksh. 3000 ($30) and Ksh. 8000 ($80) therefore enabling them to either get into product/service diversification or increase their amount of stock. These loans need to be paid back within 3 months with an interest of 10% (which goes back to the group savings) and some of these members have already started repaying. The interest accrued will be kept in the GBO Bank Account in order to increase the loaning capacity of the organization for the next members willing to benefit from this program.

But these are not the only benefits of being part of the network, as Rose, a member of GBO tells us. Rose sells chips ‘french fries’ and is a mother of three. Rose has benefited purely from being part of the business network itself. When asked what she did before learning about the GBO, she said, “I was sitting in the house, not doing anything”.

A few months ago, one of her neighbors, a member of the organization invited her to attend one of their network meetings and it was then that she realized there were new opportunities. “When I joined the organization, I saw that I could do something; that I can do business. We sit with people, they tell you something to do… you see, you can change your life”, she narrates. With the advice from other members and a capital of Ksh. 1000 ($10) from the networks savings, she opened a little chips kiosk by the roadside. According to her, this business, “... is not bad but I just stay there because I want to get something for my children, to eat…you know how Kenya is expensive nowadays”. When asked where she learned how to manage her business (calculating the profit and knowing how much stock to buy) she said, “I learned from the network meetings. When I went there I saw I could do this and that and get money. So I started like that; I got the information from the network meetings”. Rose also received valuable business advice from other members including a shop owner whose business is located next to hers.

However, while Rose has benefited from being part of the network, she hasn’t yet benefited fully from using Gatina-Pesa, as she was not aware of all members near to her who used this currency therefore making trade using the Community Currency quite difficult. These are some of the challenges members of these networks may encounter from time to time. To solve these challenges, two solutions have been put in place: a Directory was created and an Information Booth was set-up in a strategic location within the Gatina area. Also a user guide and quiz have been developed to make sure members understand how to use the Community Currency.

Since some members located in the same area did not know each other, an aspect that prohibited them to trade with each other using Gatina-Pesa, the idea of having a directory was quite timely. The directory is a small booklet that is issued to each member of the network once they sign up. It consists of a list of all active members using and accepting Gatina-Pesa. Alongside the names of the members, the reader can find their goods and services, contacts and location. The directory therefore helps the members to know each other and facilitate the circulation of the Gatina-Pesa Community Currency. There has been positive feedback regarding the use of these directories as more and more members have begun trading with each other.

An Information Booth was also set up in a strategic location to raise awareness about Gatina-Pesa and to invite businesswomen and businessmen to become members of the network. New sign-ups were followed by a training workshop to help them understand how to use Gatina-Pesa. Setting up this Information Booth solved the problem of members being located too far from each other hence not being able to spend or receive Gatina-Pesa. The booth set-up in the Gatina area saw 30 new business owners trained and registered as members of the GBO. Monitoring of these new businesses has begun and so far positive feedback has been recorded as most members are already experiencing the benefits of trading with each other using Gatina-Pesa.

Gatina-Pesa is one of 5 Community Currency programs now in Kenya - as it becomes more and more integrated into it's community it is also networking ans sharing with the other networks across Kenya. As the network is strengthened and expanded, the benefits already identified for the members are likely to increase and spread to the entire community, as more wealth is created and trade within the slum the slum has increased.

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