Going to the outskirts of Nairobi, the country managers and I met with Joseph Ngaza and his wife. He became a client of Small and Medium Enterprise Program (SMEP) in 2003 and is part of a lending group.
All members of his group live in the same area and know each other quite well. Even though he is only 30 years old, he has already had seven loans. His first loan was of KES 20,000 (€ 190) through to his most recent loan of KES 600,000 (€ 5,600). He told us soon apply for another one soon of KES 1.2 million (€ 11,250). With the loans, Joseph opened a small shop and four points to sell kerosene, which is used for cooking and lighting.
Deus Manyenye, Oikocredit's country manager from Tanzania, asked him how many people worked for him. In total, he has eight employees including his wife. When we were visiting, she worked in the small shop, despite have a six week old baby who slept peacefully in a quiet corner of the shop, wrapped in a blanket. Their other daughter, aged six, was playing outside with some friends and enjoyed posing like a model for us whenever the camera was nearby.
With his next loan Mr Nganza wants to buy a truck to transport the kerosene to Nairobi and save on transport costs. Furthermore he wants to supply the transport for other kerosene sellers in the area and diversify his income even more. Currently he has only a motorbike, which he uses for the delivery of the kerosene tanks to clients. "Free of charge!" he told me with a smile on his face.
When he was asked by Simon Karimi (operations manager SMEP) what business he would choose if he had to choose between the two he was very clear about it: “The kerosene business, it is much more profitable!"
Joseph Ngaza and his story made it clear to me why I work in microfinance. With a small loan people are given an opportunity to improve their lives, and the lives of those in their family and community.