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Transforming Trash to Cash: A waste management worker co-operative’s story



By Tindi Sitati

Uncollected solid waste is one of the most visible environmental challenges facing Kenya today. Many counties lack waste collection systems in place and the situation is worse in informal settlements. This challenge has created a multi-million-shilling industry over the years, that has seen private waste operators independently involved in various aspects of waste management.

The global cost of solid waste management, according to the World Bank is estimated at 17.6 trillion shillings annually. Despite these economic contributions, waste collectors have been left out of waste management chains and are not legally recognized as workers. Moreover, because they are mostly unorganized, they have a weak bargaining position as compared to middlemen.

The co-operative business model can be a pathway to transition informal economy workers like waste collectors to the formal economy through strengthening their collective voice and representation.

Kigro Recyclers, a youth-owned and managed waste collector’s worker co-operative based in Langata constituency in Nairobi is redefining waste collection for members through providing meaningful work. The group of 18 members – was formed in 2017 with a goal to tackle the growing problem of unemployment and garbage collection. Through training from Global Communities, USAID CLEAR Program, members transformed their waste collectors’ group to a worker co-operative, owned and managed by workers who are also members. Kigro provides garbage collection services through residential subscription programs, and they also recycle goods like plastics which they sell to generate income for their members. The service of collecting, separating and commercializing recyclable material is a means of poverty alleviation and has improved member income opportunities and livelihoods.

“When we started, we collected waste in handcarts, but later we received a loan and were able to buy a truck that we use for our garbage collection services,’” Rogers Rombe Chairperson, Kigro Recyclers.

Maintaining a decentralized business structure and ensuring democratic functioning is not easy. It requires an effective process that is supported and understood by all. To achieve this, members agreed to have specific responsibilities and authority allocated to each of them to ensure timely and effective decisions are made that will fulfill the co-operative’s goals. “The board through consultation with members makes decisions on where the co-operative shall dump waste. It must be a legal dumping site. The management on the other hand makes training and marketing decisions,” said Alex Kariuki, Treasurer.

Members who joined the Kigro Recyclers went from being self-employed to being member-owners of the co-operative and they soon realized the benefits of collective bargaining, using the co-operative as a platform to negotiate rates with clients.

“We pay our workers on a daily basis; they have families and rely on day-to-day salary to survive. We are still a young business and are not making a lot of profits and so the little we get we redirect to our savings because our goal is to buy a second truck,” said Kariuki. 

Kigro Recyclers has formalized the world of work for waste collectors in the waste management chain and members appreciate regular work and earnings, which have brought a sea-change in their lives.

The Government and stakeholders can formally recognize worker co-operatives in different sectors including waste management as an occupation and provide legal identity to workers and their co-operatives. This will encourage participation of worker co-operatives in policy-making processes that would contribute to livelihoods and economic growth.

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Why your business will need digital marketing in 2023



By  Sharon Makiti

Be it a startup or an already established business, creating a cutting-edge product or service is not enough if word about it does not reach the target consumer.

This explains why household companies like Coca-Cola and mega businesses like Safaricom will spend valued sums of their revenues towards promoting, introducing and relaunching their products and services. Some of these companies go to an extent of holding highly publicized and star-studded events to launch new products and services.

In the wake of highly volatile uncertainties bedevilling the current economic environment, most startups which are small and medium-sized businesses may lack budgets for advertisements, threatening their products and services into obscurity.

In this case, investment in digital marketing holds the key, which has proved to be a gem for ventures like AirBnBs, taxi and food apps among others. Digital marketing has transformed and grown these investments from being used by a limited number of people into successful businesses patronized by thousands of consumers.

Digital marketing encompasses various techniques and methods of using digital channels to advertise products and services to target consumers. This includes Search Engine Optimization (SEO), social media marketing like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, among others, mobile marketing, email marketing and online marketing like pay-per-click adverts.

The channels used for digital marketing are cheaper than any other form of marketing like TV ads and newspapers. The majority require your business to have an account and save for the paid adverts, the rest of the adverts will be shared for free.

Your business will need digital advertising because you need to build trust with your customers. Digital marketing allows you to have real-time, one-on-one, and personalized communication with your customers. Consistency and timely response are the keys to this relationship, you gradually build trust with your target audience.

Additionally, the internet has levelled the ground for marketing, allowing small and medium businesses as well as startups to reach a global audience, unlike when using multinational channels like radios and television stations which are highly-priced.

Compared with other forms of marketing, digital marketing is affordable for upcoming, startups as well as small and medium businesses with thin to no budgets. When you compare the returns received from this form of marketing, it is easier to monitor and measure the success of your marketing.

This may be through the number of views for a YouTube video or the conversion rates. Other platforms like Facebook allow you to know the number of people who have seen your post, unlike when you have placed an advert in a newspaper.

For the survival of any business this year, embracing digital marketing is the way to go.  Other benefits include interacting with audiences of different ages and meeting their expectations, remaining relevant, especially in the current competitive business environment as well as building an easily sustainable brand reputation.

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How SACCOs can plug into the Hustler Fund




By Edna Chepkwony Rono, DE

What is Hustler Fund?

This is a revolutionary credit scheme initiated by the Kenyan government where citizens can borrow through their mobile phones. The objective is to enhance financial inclusion by providing access to affordable credit to a population of Kenyans who have been marginalized for long. Also, to address unemployment and the lack of opportunities among low-income earners through cheap and easy loans without collateral.

Operationalization of the Hustler Fund

Following the launch in November by H.E. President Dr William Ruto, the fund was rolled out and was available for borrowing. It attracted many people who borrowed to the tune of Sh9.6 billion within the first three weeks. This indicates the popularity of the fund and the reason why SACCOs should be part of this fund.

How Saccos can Plug into the Hustler Fund

The Kenyan government intends to launch the high-limit Hustler Fund targeted at youth and women-led MSMEs that struggle to raise capital and secure loans from financial institutions to enhance their businesses in March 2023. Through the Hustler Fund, the State plans to offer loans ranging between Sh100,000 and Sh2.5 million to over three million MSMEs across Kenya. The Hustler Fund loans would step up competition for the banking sector as it has low-interest rates and no processing fees (Invoice Bazaar, 2022).

According to Kenya News Agency (2022), the government has announced plans to channel the much-anticipated Hustler funds through SACCOs to facilitate sustainability and compliance with regulations set for the revolving kitty.

This presents a golden opportunity for SACCOs with the SME product since they have a competitive advantage to pitch for business and channel this fund to the SME niche. The SACCO business model can manage the hustler fund in terms of traceability, inclusivity, affordability and sustainability.

SACCOs that have not opened the common bond to MSMEs can do so to penetrate this space. Those SACCOs that do not have microfinance products can now diversify their products and services to include MSMEs.

SACCOs face the risk of an ageing membership. According to SASRA Supervision Report (2021) majority of members in deposit-taking SACCOs in the country are between the ages of 36 and 50 years. This provides a chance for SACCOs to tap the youthful population that’s tech-savvy to increase its membership. This will be done by creating and channelling digital products which are attractive, suitable and convenient to the youth in line with the hustler fund.

Through the saving component of the hustler fund, savings culture and mobilization will be boosted in the SACCO sector thus deepening the co-operatives’ identity by reinforcing the third co-operative principle of member economic participation.

SACCOs can further plugin by creating awareness, education and providing information to the youth, women and chamas through incorporating these groups in their training programs and corporate social responsibility programs.

SACCOs will also promote their brand through marketing and advertising their products and services during education to MSMEs during recruitment and rollout.

The Hustler fund if channelled through SACCOs is likely to impact positively through increased liquidity, increased and diverse membership base, deepening SACCOs identity through savings culture and education as well as enhanced SACCOs sustainability through the digitalization of products.

SACCOs are the right vehicles to channel the hustler funds to Micros, SMEs and personal loans. Seize the opportunity.

The writer is a Board Member, Ndege Chai SACCO

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