TOUGH TIMES

Majority micro-retailers struggling to access financing – survey

These are mainly small shops in estates and rural towns.

In Summary

•31 per cent of the entities are facing challenges in accessing supplies.

•About 19 per cent have faced disruption in access to food.

An open-air shop in Ruiru along Thika superhighway. SMEs account for 75% of the total workforce/
An open-air shop in Ruiru along Thika superhighway. SMEs account for 75% of the total workforce/
Image: JACK OWUOR

About 52 per cent of micro-retailers (small shops) in Kenya are finding it difficult to access financing in the wake of Covid-19, a survey by TechnoServe shows.

This has left them in limbo in sustaining and expanding operations during the pandemic which has led to the closure of businesses, loss of millions of jobs and livelihoods.

The survey by the international non-profit organisation, that promotes business solutions to poverty in the developing world by linking people to information, capital and markets, also indicates 31 per cent of the entities are facing challenges in accessing supplies.

About 19 per cent have faced disruption in access to food.

However, 52 per cent of the surveyed entities in different parts of the country have reported increased daily sales, driven by the digital space.

This, as the economy slowly starts to improve after a poor performance in the first half of the year, when the country was facing more strict measures to contain the spread of the virus.

This includes reduced movement when the national curfew was between 7pm and 5am, and later 9 pm-4 am. It was later adjusted to the current 10pm to 4am, giving businesses more time to operate. 

The survey which covers the second half of the year, from August, indicates 93 per cent of micro-retailers are optimistic sales will increase while 75 per cent have reported business resilience.

"They can raise at least $90 (about Sh10,000) in one month during an emergency," the survey reads in part.

Meanwhile, the firm with operations in 29 countries indicates technology and partnerships will be key drivers in the recovery of the micro-retail sector post-Covid.

Micro-retailers who adopted digital strategies recorded a more than 50 per cent increase in sales, enabling them to weather the Covid-19 pandemic as they continued to reach their customers.

"Micro-retailers that adopted digital solutions have been more resilient through the Covid-19 pandemic," said Alice Waweru, the entrepreneurship portfolio lead at TechnoServe.

During a Micro-Retail Stakeholder Forum, hosted virtually by the firm last week, representatives from across the private sector and civil society highlighted the importance of new technology and cooperation to help shopkeepers navigate the Covid-19 pandemic and recover from the crisis.

“Many micro-retailers depended on customers coming to their shops, but after Covid-19, they were forced to look into new ways to engage with their customers as these buyers were no longer streaming in,"Waweru noted.

The forum emerged from the Smart Duka initiative, a  program that seeks to support micro-retailers and improve shops’ financial returns and growth.

Telecommunication firm-Safaricom has reported an increase in digital payment as businesses engage their customers online and on delivery basis, with mobile money and other cashless payment being preferred.

“With regard to Covid, we have had quite profound changes in how merchants, as well as businesses, have migrated to digital,” said Sitoyo Lopokoiyit, chief financial services officer for Safaricom.

elea Foundation for Ethics in Globalization has however cautioned that digitization alone is not a solution, calling for skills development.

“Digital is a vital component, but it’s not a silver bullet at all. It needs an ecosystem and partnership,” said Adrian Ackeret, CFO at the foundation.

elea fights absolute poverty with entrepreneurial means, capitalizing on the benefits and opportunities of globalization.

Mastercard Foundation, which is working with TechnoServe, has reported an increase in demand for digital services.

“What we have seen over the last two or three months are indications that yes, there’s a real demand and need for the solution that we’re offering through TechnoServe," regional head for Eastern and Southern Africa, Daniel Hailu, said.

Since 2015, TechnoServe has worked with over 10,000 shops located in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire to improve their business management skills and provide links to finance and markets.