When many people think of devolution, they think of it in terms of noisy failed politics and forget to consider the quiet economic storm forming in the counties. Yet with devolution and moving of bigger administrative offices out of Nairobi, the hitherto near mandatory migration to the big city is coming down, businesses are flourishing better out there, and purchasing power among those who live there is also increasing. Many entrepreneurs around the country who only needed a slight push have taken up this bright side of devolution and run with it. They’re staying put in their home counties and making their efforts count from there.
Take for example 21 year old Samuel Mutuku who started a small salon in Kitui town in February this year. After completing fourth form, he had a wider array of alternatives other than yester years when the biggest option for many was to come to Nairobi or other big towns to live with relatives and study or get menial jobs. The young man from nearby Masinga chose to settle in Kitui and pursue his dreams from closer home and his older siblings pooled resources to afford him capital to open his business.
Fresh out of high school, Samuel joined the Darling Hair and Beauty Training College within the town, got free training, and at a time when many youth his age lose hope in life with some getting into assorted vices, he’s now a business owner with an impressively high number of clientele. Samuel’s keen interest came at a time when the world has opened up its thinking and society has dropped the notion that beauty and hair dressing should only be a preserve of women. The young man’s auntie is a hair dresser and with the shift in this notion, he had always been able to freely admire her line of work and dream of pursuing it as a career too.
The free training by the Godrej Wezesha Jamii could not have come at a better time for Samuel who took the opportunity to get on board and acquire knowledge not just about hair dressing but also financial literacy, life skills, communication skills and how to run a business. I was privileged to meet him at his salon yesterday and could clearly see his joy at being able to have an early start at life. His dreams are to make the business even bigger and combine with being a retailer and distributor of hair and beauty products and as I moved around Kitui, I could tell that the town will not let him down in this endeavor. Businesses there are doing well, the economy is vibrant, and women are willing to spend money to look good. It is this kind of atmosphere that fuels Samuel’s dreams for the future, as well as those of many other youth in the area.
Right across Samuel’s salon is Monica Mwende whose story is along a similar line, except that she’s slightly older and did not get into entrepreneurship right after training. She’s also a beneficiary of the Godrej Wezesha Jamii initiative. After completing her hair and beauty training, she got into employment first and saved up money before branching out on her own. She has been in business longer, so her salon is understandably doing much better. So much so that she’s able to employ two ladies on full time basis, and the local Darling hair and beauty college is now sending students her way for internship.
Both Samuel and Monica want to expand their businesses to a point where they can become bigger names, create even more employment and pay it forward by helping other less fortunate youth within their reach. Within no time, the ripple effects will translate into a more empowered population and better educated siblings and children who will then better educate their children when they come along.
These two are just examples of what the power of opportunity can mean to the youth, to their immediate families, the wider communities, and ultimately to the economy.
Wezesha Jamii by Godrej is an empowerment initiative to enable less fortunate youth in marginalized counties by training them in hands on skills in hair and beauty. The initiative goes ahead to speak to speak to micro finance institutions to step in and help those who successfully complete the courses and would like to start businesses but lack the capital.
To make them fully well-rounded professionals, the curriculum also includes life, business and communication skills, and the all important financial literacy.