In Kenya, Entrepreneurs are Mobilizing for Impact
Micro-retailers play an important role in local communities by providing essential goods and services. However, these entrepreneurs also face numerous obstacles when running their businesses, and those challenges only became more acute during the COVID-19 pandemic. Enter Judith Namayi Amboka, a community mobilizer dedicated to helping entrepreneurs in her community access the knowledge and tools they need to thrive.
Judith Namayi Amboka plays an essential role in her coastal community near Mombasa, Kenya. As a respected leader in Ndimbwini village, she promotes education, mediates domestic disputes, and advocates for peace. The 47-year-old mother of four, whose spouse is a pastor at Emmanuel Teaching Ministry Church, also spends time teaching Bible studies and theology.
Then, late last year, Judith took on an additional role: mobilizing small business owners in her area.
Entrepreneurs in Kenya Face Challenges During COVID-19
In Kenya, micro-retailers play an important role in local communities, providing essential goods and services. However, these entrepreneurs also face numerous obstacles when running their businesses — and those challenges have only grown more severe since the beginning of the pandemic.
The main constraints facing micro-retailers during COVID-19 include:
- The need to adapt to changing consumer behavior and restrictions that affect operations
- Limited access to finance to cover core expenses and purchasing needs
- Supply chain challenges due to disruptions caused by COVID-19
For Judith, the decision to help mobilize entrepreneurs in her community was an easy one. In December 2020, Judith hosted a team from TechnoServe’s Micro-Enterprises Strengthened for Pandemic Adaptation and Resilience in Kenya (mSPARK) program.
mSPARK is a one-year program in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation that aims to support 28,000 micro-enterprise owners. Through a combination of targeted digital and financial support, the program equips entrepreneurs with the knowledge and resources needed to survive the COVID-19 crisis and emerge even stronger.
mSPARK supports entrepreneurs by:
- Strengthening business survival skills: Using digitally enabled training, the program equips entrepreneurs with a toolkit of skills needed to adapt their businesses.
- Accessing finance: Working in close collaboration with the financial technology company 4G Capital, mSPARK helps entrepreneurs access $4.4 million in repayable business grants to cover immediate working capital needs, as well as strengthen their long-term access to finance.
- Addressing supply chain disruptions: The program engages suppliers and distributors of essential goods to strengthen their connections with micro-retailers and minimize disruptions to the supply chain.
Supporting Entrepreneurs in Kenya Through Community Mobilization
Through her role as a community mobilizer, Judith has helped TechnoServe identify micro-enterprise owners who would be a good fit for the program and most benefit from the technical and financial support.
“I was motivated to assist with mobilization because it has been my desire as a church- and community leader to see that the people I am leading are doing well and that their lives are becoming easier,” Judith shares. “So, if an institution is willing to help my people and help them move from one level to another, then I will ensure that these institutions reach my people.”
When I was introduced to mSPARK, it was like an answered prayer to help uplift the standards of my people. That is why I volunteered to mobilize — to ensure they reach any villager who is ready and willing to earn a living.”
— Judith Namayi Amboka
Although Judith is not a direct participant in the mSPARK program, she is committed to supporting entrepreneurs in Kenya through community mobilization.
Digital Training Brings New Knowledge
“The digital training is the best part of what mSPARK is doing because there are so many things [the entrepreneurs] get to learn,” she says. “Some of the villagers opened their businesses without knowing how to run them. But the knowledge they have learned, like recordkeeping, merchandising, and customer relations, will remain with them.”
When Judith looks at the effects the program has had on her community, the change is obvious.
“mSPARK has turned around the lives of those in my village. Many of those who took the loan and invested in their businesses are doing well because it came when businesses were down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has really benefited my people. Some have even expanded their shops. Those who had vibandas [small, semi-permanent stalls] have now built permanent structures and established themselves.”