Monday, October 13, 2008

DBSP: Bringing More than Economic Hope to Western Kenya

~ text and photo by Adele Booysen

Sitting under a tree on a blazing Saturday afternoon, I could hardly believe what the men around me were telling me. “Yesterday, on our very last day of the DBSP training, was the first time we talked or even thought about tribes,” Juma suggested. “And it is only because someone specifically asked us what tribes we belong to. Until now, we’ve just thought about our businesses and how to help one another succeed.”

“As a Kalenjin,” 20-some-year old Kenei explained, “I believed I couldn’t succeed in business. Business is not in my blood. In fact, during the first exercise, I did nothing! But then Pastor Titus encouraged me. Charles and Juma also helped me to see that I can be successful in business.”

The three other men laughed. Two of them are Kikuyu, and one, Luhya. Earlier this year, these three tribes were at war. But now, they are working together to encourage one another.

Wendy Ludovici of ELI/DBSP Kenya reminded the students of the same during her closing comments earlier in the day. “This is just the beginning. We have equipped you with skills and confidence . . . ”

This was evident in my conversation with the men under the tree. Eric blew the stereotype of his people not being good at business out of the water!

He discovered a need for milk in Munyaka, a Kikuyu residential area. Earlier this year, Munyaka was one of the hotspots in the tribal warfare. Kalenjins were no longer welcomed there. But Eric discovered that no one was selling milk in the area, and ignored the fact that he was a Kalenjin. “I had something to offer the people of Munyaka!”

By the last day of class, this young businessman had made more money than any of his classmates! In fact, with his newly-acquired business skills, he made more than he usually made in several months combined!

“When positive opportunities like these come our way,” Charles commented, “we forget about tribe.”

Present people with positive opportunities, and they start treating one another with respect and dignity. If it’s indeed that simple, the dynamic business startup project can have far-reaching effects in Kenya and beyond.

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