KENYA, NOVEMBER 15 — Lydia Tioko dared to dream – and she is living that dream! Born and brought up in the male-dominated Turkana Culture, hers was a confinement to the predominantly patriarchal society that is Turkana, in Northern Kenya.
Growing up watching men take the lead in almost all facets of life as the women performed their supportive roles, gave her a strong passion to do more.
This push and desire for more saw her labor her way through education and ultimately to start a business of her own – A construction company! Who could have thought it is even possible for a woman to venture into such unchartered waters? It was unheard of, but she went on.
All was not rosy as she would later come to discover. Wading through the murky waters of tenderpreneurship, Lydia would not have a smooth sail. Suffering setbacks of delayed payments on County Government tenders as well as the ever-presentmale intimidation, these were some of the challenges that she had to maneuver.
Invest in Africa (IIA-Kenya) entered Turkana County through a Capacity Building Programme funded by UK’s Department for International Development (DFID)’s Kenya Extractives Programme (K-EXPRO), for which IIA won a GBP100,000 (about US$127, 442) grant to pilot a Credit Guarantee Scheme (CGS) Project to benefit the Turkana businesses.
The initiative’s biggest focus was to alleviate the challenges faced by the local enterprises like Lydia’s in accessing affordable credit through technology in an area that had zero presence of financial institutions. Interestingly, this is also the Oil-rich area of Turkana South, in which Tullow Oil successfully explored, and is producing Crude Oil.
In a three-pronged objectified approach, IIA-Kenya is providing access to markets by linking the small enterprises to large corporations like Tullow Oil, giving access to business skills through targeted and focused trainings on certain key areas of need in order to make the local business more competent to meet the standards and requirements of the large corporations, and lastly IIA-Kenya is giving the MSMEs access to affordable credit through a localized and mobile-based LPO-Financing scheme that has very limited barriers and institutional red-tape.
These three value addition areas have birthed a lot of enthusiasm and renewed vigor to access business opportunities and to execute them, all of which have also contributed to the Turkana County Government’s overall desire to create a more sustainable and progressive business environment for its people.
It all started with the dream of one young lady called Lydia Tioko who dared to dream and venture into a world unknown. IIA stepped up, held her hand and walked the journey with her. Even as the project comes to a close, Lydia remains a success story worth mentioning.
She represents all the women-led enterprises who despite the harsh business terrain, are daring and trudging on.
Earlier, she could not amass the confidence to express herself to potential partners, business mentors and even her male counterparts, but now, through IIA’s exposure and support, she is confident and can speak for herself, get more business, and negotiate her own terms of engagement.
On Financial linkages, she initially struggled to get a good credit history to qualify for bank loans and other sources of financing, but through IIA’s direct loan to her business and a further financial linkage through IIA-Kenya’s partners, she can confidently bid for large tenders and contracts without fear, having a good credit history, and with the assurance that credit access will no longer be her problem.
Lastly, through IIA-Kenya’s continuous capacity building training programmes, she has gathered enough knowledge to better the running of her business, and has even embraced the digital media to enable her to advertise her business online in order to wide her reach and access to a more national and even global markets.
For Lydia and many MSMEs in Turkana County in the Northern Kenya, the sky is no longer just the limit, but a big stepping stone to reach even higher levels of business prosperity and success, thanks to IIA-Kenya’s intervention.
More remain undone to sustain this and ensure that most of these small businesses break even, and even create more employment for the thousands who remain unemployed and below the poverty line.
According to IIA-Kenya, more support is needed especially from other donors to ensure more is achieved.
IIA’s immediate priority, it says, is to get more funds to continue developing and upscaling the businesses in order to take advantage of opportunities that will arise during the development phase of Tullow Oil’s South lokichar project – which will come with a bigger demand scope.
“We owe it to Lydia and the rest of the Turkana MSMEs to continue the good work that we started, until they can stand on their own and mentor other upcoming businesses led by women in Turkana County,” says Wangechi Muriuki- IIA Country Manager(Kenya).
According to Muriuki, this will create a multiplier effect and drive Invest in Africa’s aspirations towards the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) five (5) on empowering women through business.
Business women like Lydia are now role models to young girls in a society which focuses more on the boy-child over the girl-child.