GROWING TOGETHER IN UNITY

Some members of United Kambi Moto group infront of their building in Huruma.
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WEF supports a self-help group in Nairobi to venture into real estate and car wash business

By Paul Kamau

Kambi Moto is one of the five settlements in Huruma area, approximately five kilometres north east of Nairobi’s central business district (CBD).

In 2005, twenty two residents of a former densely populated slum, came together to form a self help group. They named it United Kambi Moto Self Help Group. The group is unique in that it comprises members of diverse ages. The youngest is aged thirty two years, while the oldest is seventy two. The group has accommodated four men in its membership of twenty. In the initial stages, the group would occasionally give contributions of fifty shillings with a long term vision that they would start a development so as to create employment opportunities for the youth.

In the year 2014, an opportunity to change their fortunes presented itself when they learnt about the Women Enterprise Fund and its flagship product known as Tuinuke Loan. Having already registered their group, they were eligible for their first loan immediately they completed WEF’s three day training on entrepreneurship. They received their first loan of Kshs. 50,000 which they injected in a stalled construction project. Upon full repayment of the first loan, they successfully applied for the second loan of Kshs. 100,000. In order to increase the group income, they opened a car wash outside their construction project. The business grew very fast and they therefore recruited employees to run it.

According to Ms. Ann Kang’ethe, group’s Chairlady, the ambitious group continued saving religiously and at some point started advancing loans to the members. “We reached a point where we decided to be helping our members by opening an opportunity for them to get emergency loans through table-banking,” she offers. “The WEF loans and our increasing income enabled our members to thrive,” she adds. The group has to date accessed a total of Kshs. 1.95 million from WEF. They have constructed a rental premises consisting of two shops, three bedsitters, two single rooms and a church. From their humble beginning, its members are proud of their achievements. This group has thrived a lot because of being disciplined.

A member of United Kambi Moto group working at the car wash under their management

Monthly income

The group generates a monthly income of about Kshs. 80,000. Its rental income on the other hand is about Kshs. 80,000 per month. To synchronize all the investments and at the same time ensure the smooth running of the group, the group has come up with three departments: loans, finance and projects. The Loans department is responsible for getting information from members who wish to acquire loans and forwards their credit worthiness to the group based on their savings. At the same

time, the finance department plays the advisory role on the availability of the funds for a particular development project and when disbursing loans. Finally, the projects team handles security and complaints from the tenants and acts as the caretaker of the car wash business. It is also the link between the group and the tenants.

Challenges

The global Covid-19 pandemic adversely affected this group. “The closure of schools, restrictions on movement, bans on social gatherings and limitations on economic activities led to income losses and food insecurity,” laments Ms. Kangethe. As a result, some members were unable to save regularly while others defaulted on their loans. In the same vein, due to the harsh economic times, other members were unable to attend the weekly meetings since they had to fend for their families. This really slowed down the group’s development projects.

Fortunately, with the economy and the country getting back to normal, the group has been able to overcome that challenge. Indeed, its members are now more united than ever. Another challenge is rent arrears from some of the tenants who default or in the worst case scenario disappear without paying. In the same breath, most founder members ageing and this poses a challenge when they are applying for loans since they keep forgetting their signatures. They are however currently working on an arrangement to have fingerprints used instead of signatures.

United Kambi Moto group car wash in Huruma.

Unity of Purpose

For a group that cuts across different generations, what keeps them together is

accountability. Every department must make its reports during the weekly meetings and in particular, the finance department must submit bank slips of all the transactions. This has created trust among the members. In addition, since they live in the same neighborhood, they relate more as a family especially because they have been together for more than seventeen years. For this reason, WEF has been using United Kambi Moto’s example as a benchmark to other visiting groups from various parts of the country.

Future plans

In the near future, the group is planning to apply for a Kshs. 1 million loan facility from WEF in order to invest in more projects. Some of these projects will be outside Nairobi County. In the same breath, the group is planning to venture into export business.

Additionally, they also want to purchase a motor vehicle in order to help in transporting the staff and members especially during their Annual General Meetings that are usually held in August every year. Its long term plan is to facilitate every founder member to own a home as some of them are living in rented premises. This story demonstrates that trust, discipline and unity play a vital role in the success of self help groups.

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