Across the developing world, small shops – known as micro-retailers – are vital to local economies, selling $11 trillion worth of goods annually. In Kenya, small retail shops called dukas are critical to the vibrant tapestry of the nation’s economy.
Dukas are part of Kenya’s informal economy, which accounts for 70% of the nation’s retail sales. In Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, these shops supply close to 80% of consumer goods. They also serve as critical suppliers and employers for some of the city’s most vulnerable populations.
Despite their significance, these businesses often grapple with challenges, resulting in reduced incomes for their owners. These challenges include:
- Limited purchasing power
- Lack of financing
- Difficulty sourcing products
- Lack of the necessary business skills required to maintain and grow their businesses
A Transformation Through the Smart Duka Initiative
Recently, a transformative initiative has been quietly reshaping the trajectory of the micro-retail sector in Kenya. In November, TechnoServe celebrated the launch of the National Duka-owners Umbrella Organization. The organization is a testament to collective efforts and a vision for sustainable micro-retail.
This journey began in 2016 with the creation of the Smart Duka Initiative. The program aims to empower micro-entrepreneurs in Kenya. It is a partnership between TechnoServe and like-minded partners: elea Foundation for Ethics in Globalization, Moody’s Foundation, Citi Foundation, and Mastercard Foundation.
Impact by the Numbers: Micro-Retail in Kenya
Fast forward to 2023, and the impact of the program is evident. TechnoServe has equipped over 50,000 micro-entrepreneurs – 68% of whom are women – with essential skills to run their shops. These entrepreneurs have learned new skills and been empowered to navigate the dynamic world of micro-retail successfully.
In collaboration with partners, the Smart Duka Initiative has facilitated linkages to over $5 million in finance. Access to finance has nurtured the growth of these micro-businesses, fueling economic vitality at the grassroots level.
The Foundation of Collaboration
Forty-two business groups have emerged as a result of this initiative, forming the bedrock of the National Duka-owners Association. This collaborative effort symbolizes a united front, a recognition that together, micro-retailers can amplify their impact and advocate for their collective interests.
Sustainability Through Association
The launch of the National Duka-owners Umbrella Organization, which houses 12 regional associations, marked a momentous occasion that promises sustained support for micro-retailers. Through formalization, the initiative ensures a robust ecosystem where knowledge, resources, and opportunities can be shared seamlessly.
This is a culmination of the Smart Duka program, a collaborative effort of TechnoServe and the elea Foundation for Ethics in Globalization to ensure we have a thriving micro-retail sector.”
– Kris Ansin, Country Director, TechnoServe Kenya
This organization is more than a network; it’s a lifeline for micro-retailers. It will empower them to negotiate better agreements, access affordable financing, and collectively address challenges that once seemed insurmountable. It will be a platform where concerns are heard and solutions are forged.
Henry Rithaa, Director General of Micro- and Small Enterprises Authority (MSEA), emphasized the pivotal role micro-retailers play in shaping Kenya’s production and consumption patterns. “This collaboration aims to ensure the National Duka-owners Umbrella Organization aligns with government regulations, fostering a formalized and compliant micro-retail sector in Kenya,” he said.
Looking Ahead: The Future of Micro-Retail
As we celebrate this historic launch, we look ahead with optimism. The National Duka-owners Umbrella Organization is not just an entity; it’s a movement. Through the association, Kenya is moving toward a more resilient and thriving micro-retail sector – the heartbeat of Kenya’s economy.
In the tapestry of transformation, every thread counts. The National Duka-owners Umbrella Organization is a celebration of the countless threads woven together to create a stronger, more vibrant micro-retail sector. As we step into this new chapter, we welcome you to join this narrative, observe the resilience and potential of Kenya’s micro-retailers, and actively participate in crafting a future where every duka owner not only survives but thrives.