Bungoma informal traders express optimism amidst the turbulent economic time
Written by Brenda Kanani and Ikwaras John
Read 423 Times
Kenya’s informal sector that caters for the many small businesses and kinds of artisanship which proliferate on sidewalks or in alleys without benefit of offices, factories, or showrooms has been looked down upon by many Kenyans, yet it is the same industry that has been a source of livelihood for many; sustaining families, educating children.
According to World Bank analysts “Kenya’s informal sector constitutes 98 percent of all businesses in the country, absorbs annually up to 50 per cent of new nonfarm employment seekers, has an employment growth rate of 12-14 percent.” contributes 30 percent of total employment and 3 percent of GDP.”
Many who have ventured in to the sector like David Wangila, who has been making sandals from motor vehicle tires commonly known as “akala” for the past seven years in Bungoma market.
His tools of trade are a knife, nails and a stone, it takes him only fifteen minutes to make one pair “akala”, marketing the shoes is a big task as he has to sit patiently and wait for anyone who feels like purchasing them, this is so even though these shoes cost only eighty shillings a pair for a child, and one hundred and fifty shillings for an adult.
On a lucky day, he gets to supply the slippers on wholesale to other traders who then go and sell them to other markets.
Joshua Mwangi (above) is another informal trader in the market who makes tin lamps from scrap metals and tins.
The sixty-year old man happily goes about his work, insisting “lazima tufanye kazi” (we must work) as he highlights the benefits gained from his job, including educating his children.
Joshua sadly recalls the political clashes in 1992 in the then Mt. Elgon District that forced him to move with his family to Bungoma town.
The main challenge in his work, he says, is the unavailability of scrap metals locally, as he has to go to Eldoret, Kitale and Nairobi towns in order to get them.
Another Jua kali dealer George Waswa (above), whose specialty is making jikos. George has been doing this work from the year 1995 and recalls that poverty was what pushed him to start the business.
Four years after beginning the work, he was able to marry and now has five children, all of whom he is educating, the first born being in a renowned high school in the country.
The common challenge amongst all of these informal entrepreneurs is the fact that council “askaris” (Municipal council officials) charges them Sh 30 everyday, this being unfair as there are days when they go without selling anything.
However, they are all optimistic, working hard and staying determined. Their advice to unemployed youth who complain of lack of jobs, “employ you!”