Sustainable Development Success Stories

Women entrepreneurs

Location Kenya (Nairobi and Thika).
Responsible Organisation United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).
Description The informal sector of the Kenyan economy is known as Jua Kali, or "hot sun", referring to micro-business operations along streets and outdoor markets. The Government recognises the potential of these activities to generate jobs and has attached high priority to bringing them into the mainstream economy. The sheer number of women who work on garments and the restrictions they face make them an obvious target group for assistance. They are confined to garment making and repairs, produce low-quality goods, have difficulties in obtaining credit, lack technical and business skills. The two-year project financed by Germany traces its roots to 1991, when UNIDO introduced a training programme in textile and garment making in Nairobi. In 1993, activities expanded to the rural areas in Nyeri. The latest project built on the initial success of an integrated training package focusing on entrepreneurship, marketing and product development. The package offers a six-month training programme on technical and business aspects, including marketing; a training of trainers programme; and a wide range of short-term courses in technical subjects and business management. A newly created non-governmental organisation, expected to take over the project, will ensure that at least 100 entrepreneurs and 25 trainers undergo training each year. The project will set up a retail sales outlet, explore new markets and introduce new courses in fashion design.
Issues Addressed Capacity building for women entrepreneurs.
Results Achieved More than 1000 women in Nairobi and Nyeri benefited from training courses and 700 women completed the six-month training programme. About 665 women are running their own businesses or earn fixed salaries, compared with 140 before the training. Average salaries increased by more than 100 per cent. An estimated 2,240 jobs were created directly; indirect employment generated is even greater through 400 new businesses that started up. The project's impact on transferring new skills and creating employment is spreading: project participants have shared their know-how with employees, apprentices and family members, who in turn have trained others. Access to credit enabled women to invest in modern sewing machines. Repayment records are good, helped by sound profits. Most of the beneficiaries opened bank accounts and maintain accounting records for the first time. Product lines have expanded into home accessories, bed linens, toilet sets, children's toys and baby items featuring tie-dye, batik, leather, printing and weaving. About 30 per cent have relocated their operations to commercial premises, larger towns and central business areas. Majority have legalised and registered their businesses. Most of the women have taken part in marketing missions on their own or under the project to promote their products. About 60 per cent are targeting middle range to upscale markets. Some 40 per cent have been able to make an entry into the African, European and American markets. Beneficiaries have demonstrated to their families and their community that their businesses are not merely part-time, low-profit activities but are full-time, income-generating operations. UNIDO's experience in Kenya is being replicated in other parts of the developing world and in other sectors.
Lessons Learned These types of projects need long term commitment by donors and recipient governments, since it takes time to build national capacities to the level required to assure sustainability.
Contact Mr. David Yuen-hoi Lee , UNIDO Vienna International Centre, 
P.O.Box 300, A-1400 Vienna, Austria
Tel. (43 1) 21131 3837; 
E-mail: Ylee@unido.org