We went to a church in the middle of Kibera on Sunday the 6th of November, together with Brother Joseph. Kibera is the biggest slum of East-Africa. After the service we walked around Kibera for some hours. One million people live in Kibera, it was an incredible and humbling experience. On Monday the 7th our project really started. On Monday we met with Leonard Schürg, who we got to know via Job Nijs, co-founder of YesDelft.
Date: 7th of November
Attendants: Chris, Ivo, Jochem and Leonard Schürg
Subject: setting up a business in Kenya
Our first meeting in Kenya was a meeting with someone from the Netherlands: Leonard Shurg. Leonard is an entrepreneur who helped starting up Yes!Delft. He moved to Nairobi two months ago, together with his wife who has a job over there. Because he expects to live in Kenya the next couple of years, he will start a design company in Nairobi together with other foreigners when he has obtained a work permit. During our conversation with Leonard we talked about his experiences in Kenya up to now and also about starting a business in this land together with youngsters.
One of the key aspects of starting a business in Kenya is, just like in any other country, obtaining a strong network. Relationships play an even bigger role in running a business as they do in the Netherlands because Kenyan people are not willing to cooperate without having a personal relationship. It is also a good option to work together with people from the Netherlands as it may surprise you how many Dutch people live in Kenya. When you want to start a business in Kenya as a foreigner, it is necessary to have a work permit. These work permits are handed out with extreme delays when you refuse to pay bribes. Because an acquaintance of Leonard still hasn’t got a work permit after two full years, he decided to pay some bribes as he does not want to spend two years of his (up to now) active and entrepreneurial live to doing nothing in Nairobi. It is important to ask locals for the price of goods and services like transportation as it is easy to pay twice of thrice the correct amount as a foreigner.
As a response to our explanation of the project, Leonard said that there are a lot of enthusiastic youngsters with ideas. Therefore, one of the things we have to pay attention to, when starting a project with youngsters is to let youngsters come up with their own ideas: they have to become the owners of the project instead of just following your orders. When we want to lay the foundation of a project that has to last some years, it is important that we play a facilitating role in the project. Leonard also offered the idea that we can make our project a project of a local (a youngster or an elder), who we can put in charge of the continuation of the project.
Our conversation with Leonard once again made clear that it is important for the continuation of the project that we let the youngsters be the owners of the project. Also, we want to find a local in Molo who we can put in charge of the project in order to guarantee continuation of the project the following years. At the end of our conversation Leonard offered us to come to Molo and teach a class about entrepreneurship to the youngsters.
On Tuesday 8th of November we had three meeting:
Meeting at Tangaza College
Date: 8th of November, morning hours
Attendants: Chris, Jochem, Ivo and Brother Raphael
Location: Nairobi, Tangaza College
On the morning of the 8th of November we went with Brother Raphael to Tangaza College. We were invited in the class of him, he teaches Health Science. In this class they started with discussions in small groups wich we joined. After this there was a break, we went on a tour with some student. We noticed that people look up to us and would like to speak with us later. After the break a long presentation was given. The students used word as a way of prestentation, and were just reading the slides up loud from the screen. A lot of students have functions (class president, law committee, media committee, representatives, etc.). The atmosphere was really nice. People have a very low eductional level. The assignments are easy (to us), but all of the students had a strong opinion and the discussions were nice.
It was nice to understand a little more about the way people are educated and get eduction, and the way this happens.
Meeting with Nairobits
Date: 9th of November, 13:00-15:00
Attendants: Chris, Ivo, Jochem and Rukia Sedit and Stella
Location: Nairobi, Nairobits
Nairobits is a school for web designers, founded in 1999. This school is the first initiative of what nowadays is known as the Butterfly Works from Amsterdam. We have had a previous meeting with them also. They teach young people (17-22 years old) from disadvanted places for free. They work together with local organizations that do the first part of the selection for them. They excist via funding, and they now have seven locations. Nairobits also teaches the youngsters life skills other than just graphic skills. Nairobits has become a professional school afther al these years.
They have explained us that a good needs assessment is essential, and that we have to work together with local organizations, otherwise three months is not enough. They told us immersion in the community is crucial to understand the people and their minds. We need to start with what the sisters have in mind, they said. Nairobits selects the young people based on their motivation. They told us to work on a good reputation from the beginning. Also, not everyone is an entrepreneur they noted. 90% of their students that gets a job ends up as employee in someone else’s company.
Nairobits said they want to expand to the rural areas of Kenya. Also they offered to come by. If we want we could be able to become some sort of a franchise. After the meeting we looked around in their classes. Nairobits is a great school, and we look back on a really interesting meeting.
Meeting with Masterpeace
At the end of the afternoon we met with Peter, Moses and Hezron from Masterpeace. Trough Restart Network, which we spoke in the Netherlands, we got in contact with them and they were very willing to help us and meet us in Nairobi. Their aim is to: “mobilize people around the world to use their talent and energy for peace building and togetherness. Through music, sports, arts and dialogue, MasterPeace will help lead the way to a more sustainable world with less armed conflict. MasterPeace focuses on actively engaging people around the world in peace-building actions”.
Moses and Peter emphasized that we must have an informal approach to the youngsters in Molo and that we do not work for them, but that we would like to work with them together. We must not act like we are above them because we want to learn from them as well. We are not the teachers who are going to tell them what is good and what is bad, but we are going to look together with them for a solution. The actual things we are going to do must be tangible and practical instead of theoretical and something we, ourselves, are passionate/energetic about or derive energy from. In the past people from Africa got paid for their attendance at workshops/meetings/events by developing organizations from Europe/America. This is why people sometimes expect money for their attendance and we should absolute break with this tendence.
Because we are only for three months in Kenya we have to make sure that we have a large network of people that are involved in the project, where the Incarnate Word Sisters are our first partners. This network has to contribute to our project and has to take care of the project in the meantime. The very beginning of the project should be a safe space and a hangout for the youth where they can meet. Eventually this should grow to a more business entrepreneurship environment. Without money we should create a community/website which they can come to for knowledge or experience, if eventually money involves in this project we can create a community centre. Moses and Peter would love to come by to help us with our project.
On Wednesday the 9th we had one meeting which took the whole day:
Meeting at Skill center
The skill center is located 30km outside of Nairobi. It is a place where young people come to learn about vocational skills. The leader of this place is Duncan. Youngsters can decide to learn about ICT, construction, electrical engineering, and so forth. The students pay nothing, so even kids from Kibera can join. We spoke to them all and everyone was enthusiastic. Several said it changed their perspective on life. They saw the place as their home, since some also slept there.
The place is completely self-sufficient: even the water from the toilets are being reused. A lot of the students had a special function, like being responsible for the dorm rooms, or being a school president.
The concept is great, but is seemed like something is missing. A little unprofessional maybe. The school is filled for 50%, they do not make use of advertisements in any way, otherwise they might have to many people (which surprised us). The students are coming from the entire country. There are very dependent of external funds, Duncan made that really clear. He might also have expected money from us.
The location was placed in a extremely dry place, there was no real road leading to the place. But the school is a great initiative, it changes people’s lives and the students actually do get a job after the education. They were also registered as an official institute, in which they educate students for six months (instead of the normal two years).
On Thursday the 11th we had one meeting:
Meeting with Village Capital
Date: 10th of November, 09:00
Village Capital is a startup accelerator from Africa. They are organize two rounds each year, wherein they include twelve startups that they have selected out of 180 applicants. They provide multiple workshops/trainings. At the end of the round they let the selected startups choose the two best. These two startups are funded with 50.000 Dollars each. The startups are companies that provide solutions not only for Kenya but as well for the rest of Africa. The mean problems most of the startups face are capital, bookkeeping, management, licenses and product differentiation but there are a lot of business who invest in startups in Kenya.
Village Capital has two branches: respectively an NGO and a investment branch. Right now they are working on solutions for the mobile phones, since that is really coming up in Africa and african people don’t always have a computer, but they do always have a cell phone. They think, for instance, about m-pesa application which provides a solution to transfer money between people using mobile phones.
Michael suggested we should look for some companies like FarmDrive which provides micro credits for farmers, OGEYREENY, Mobius, M-Kopa and Bridge school. Also, he said that young people are not really looking outside of their own safe environment. Their own village is all that they have or some of them are going to Nairobi to find a job. Further he stated we should try to create cooperatives with local people, for example: let farmers work together in a cooperative and contact a supermarket instead of the local market, so they have a stronger position in the market or create more value proposition to their goods. He said Kenyan supermarkets, in contrasts to Dutch ones, could buy directly from farmers if they have a constant supply but Molo alone will not be big enough to get a return on investment. Most of they money is between the farmers and the supermarkets.
A problem that Kenya is facing, is the power of big international company who do not allow any value proposition to the crops. For example, coffee companies from the EU do not allow local value proposition that Kenyan farmers have like grinding the coffee beans. As a result the money that these farmers make is very little compared to the price that this product will eventually cost in the european supermarkets. Michael suggested we work together with other organizations so that the transfer of knowledge at the end of our staying will go smoothly. He was very willing to come to Molo once.
The meetings we had this week were a great contribution to our knowledge of Kenya and young people in particular. We are really satisfied with our first days. We got to know great people, who all wanted to help us and liked to think with us, and help us come in contact with other people.
On Friday the 11th of November we travelled to Molo, via Navesha. In Navesha we met with Sister Esther Mwaniki for the first time. After that we went to Molo, where we arrived in the afternoon. In Molo we will be staying in the house opposite to the location of the Sisters. The congregation of the Sisters in Molo is a place where young women are educated to one day become a sister. They are in a process to find out if they want to dedicate their lives to the Church, and they are learning about it while being in this process. There are a couple of Sisters that guide them and follow us also.
Sister Lucy is in charge of the projects and is particularly involved in guiding us. She wants all the best for us and is very gentle. On Saturday the 12th of November we went to the building site of new Primary School. This school is part of the plan the Sisters made for Molo. We also heard and saw the horrible effects of the Post-election Riots. For example, the house next to the Sisters are now ruins. The family is Kikuyu and they were attacked by Karenji people. More information about the background will come later.
The primary school will be finished in around two months. It looks good, but when designing the school the architect did not include a plan to collect rainwater. Because of this the Sisters also asked us (including the Pokot Group) to come up with ideas to do this.
We also met Faustus Michael Ndenyele. He is going to be our translator and guide. We would soon discover that Faustus is going to be a huge contribution, almost a fourth member of the Group. Faustus was born in Molo and is family of Brother Faustus and Sister Esther Mwaniki. Faustus knows a lot of people and is familiar with all the sensitivities here. He is ambitious, smart and very committed to us. He will be with us almost every day of the week and he helps us also with other things like buying bicycles, moving around with matatu’s, creating WiFi and so on.
A situation like this, where an important thing happens and was planned for us that we did not know about, is going to happen to us much more. Our experience is that Kenyan/African people communicate in another way. You will find out about a lot of things really late, in our eyes.
We spend the afternoon visiting people in the surroundings. The people are very open to us. A lot of people have never seen a white person before. The scene looked like the Dutch Archeon to us. We met the (drunk) police officer that ‘protects’ the area, he also warmly welcomed us.
Later we also spoke to others, like the Sisters and Faustus, and we understood that the project was going to be a little bit different than we thought it would be. More information about this will come later, but key of the change is: the sensitivity and cohesion of the area, the presence of Faustus, and the low density of the place. We also got some other new perspectives through the meetings, mainly management of the expectations. We understood that people here expect money when they see white people. Also, we understood that our pitch to everyone should be changed from ‘trying to create jobs’ to ‘re-empower the youth of Molo to create new opportunities and perspective for their future’. We need to be sure to lower the expectations to a realistic one, we don’t want to promise things that we can’t accomplish, especially because we have no idea what we can end up with in two and a half months since the momentum and speed of acting is completely different here.
On Sunday the 13th of November we were invited to join in the church service. The service was in Swahili, and Is an important part of the community, since announcements are made and visitors are introduced. We also got a moment to introduce ourselves, and get to know some of the youth.
In the afternoon we had a meeting with Faustus. We told him everything we know about the project, and all that we have learned from the previous meetings with other organizations. Faustus also showed us a list of people he thinks are ‘serious’ (potentials for our group of youngsters). This is one moment where we found out that Faustus’ presence makes things a lot easier for us. Simple things like transporting ourselves is a big challenge for us alone. But when Faustus is around he just calls some people he knows that have a motorbike, and he makes sure we travel for a normal price. There are a lot of examples like this.
In the evening we spoke to Sister Lucy and Sister Modesta, together with Brother Peter (a Brother from another brother-congregation nearby). In this meeting we updated each other and talked about expectations. It was clear that Sister Lucy is a bit scared about all that can happen in this place, because of our coming. She is happy that we are here, but at the same time she wants things to change here at a slow pace. Her vision is that via our project a process in young people’s heads start, wherein they find out that there is perspective for them, and developing themselves and the area is possible. We do agree with her that they need to create their own perspective and solutions, and that we play a facilitating role. At the same time we want to leave something concrete. For ourselves we concluded that it would be a good idea to create a long term vision and planning for the coming years.
To conclude, this first week we learned that the group we start with (our prototype) needs to be from a good quality: people need to be selected, and committed. A needs assessment is an essential to start on the right path. We will not be the ones solving their problems, we can only facilitate. We should be interacting with the youth in an informal way, and approach them as friends instead of teachers. We also want to learn from them, two-sided relationship. Most of the organizations are willing to help us with the project. Faustus jr. is a great contribution to the project and Sister Lucy is a very kind woman but a bit protective and careful. We got to learn a lot from people in the area and got more insight in the history of this area.