Kenya’s unemployment rate has steadily increased since 2013 so when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the nation early this year, it spelled doom for many more Kenyans.
As the economy slowly shut down, many employers increased redundancy lay-offs and some eventually had to let go of their staff as their businesses were also shut down.
The service and hospitality industries were hardest hit as people were encouraged to stay at home and travel across borders was stopped.
Mike Musau (not his real name), is among the Kenyans who lost their jobs at the beginning of the pandemic. Mike tells us that before he lost his job, he had separated with his wife so he was depending solely on his salary for survival.
He had to think on his feet...and fast.
Sudden Job Loss
“It was difficult because I lost my job suddenly and I had no other source of income. I also knew that it would be hard to get a job because most companies were laying off their staff. Worse still, would they be able to pay enough?” he says.
Musau narrates that he decided to start selling face masks. The government had made it compulsory for all citizens to wear a mask while in public so he was sure that demand would not be an issue.
“I set aside some of the money I had been given as final dues to start off. I set up a Facebook page, began sharing photos of the masks I was selling and because I had a contact at Industrial area who could help me source the masks, I asked for a price list,” he narrates.
The entrepreneur says that the demand for his products was beyond his expectations. Soon he was moving boxes of masks in a day.
From unemployed to employer
“I posted the masks on my WhatsApp status and all my personal social media pages and surprisingly, very few of my friends showed interest. Most of my customers were from the Facebook page so I also began to boost those posts,” he says.
Musau also hired a few hawkers and placed them at strategic points in his neighbourhood. Some outside the major supermarkets, some at bus stops and others in neighbouring estates.
“I decided to look beyond my unemployed status, to even go beyond employment and become an employer. I had no other option,” he narrates.
He also decided to open a Pochi la Biashara account that would help keep money meant for the business from his personal funds.
The account also allows him to sell airtime and earn a commission, which is extra income for Musau.
Twende Tukiuke, Going Beyond
Musau says that he is now looking to expand the business to sell less seasonal commodities.
“I recently got approached by a member of a tendering committee who had sought to buy the masks in bulk, but my business was not able to meet the full requirements of the tendering committee. Because my masks are made by a local manufacturer they did not have the FDA approval that is normally assigned to imported masks.
“However, that experience showed me where I need to develop my business,” he explains.
This is the spirit behind Safaricom’s Twende Tukiuke campaign.
As Kenya’s leading telco marks its two-decade anniversary, Safaricom is calling on all its customers to go beyond!