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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 March, 2003, 15:32 GMT
Kenya stimulates small business growth

By James Whittington
BBC World Service Africa Business Editor

Men hawking goods in Nairobi
Kenya wants all workers to help rebuild the economy
In Kenya, like much of Africa, the informal sector plays a vital economic role and the new government is taking steps to help that sector grow.

Each year thousands of people arrive in cities such as Nairobi to try to earn a living - whether it is from selling newspapers from a pavement or driving a taxi.

Recognising the importance of the informal sector, the new government in Kenya is keen to include these workers into their plans to re-build the country.

One story which comes up time and time again, is how skilled workers are having to leave steady employment and are forced to find jobs elsewhere.

Self employed

Kennedy turned to the "matatu" business - the fleets of minibuses ferrying nearly two million people in and out of Nairobi each day.

There was a sense of hopelessness and corruption was accepted as a way of life
Kennedy, Minibus operator
He had worked for the government for 10 years, until he lost his job when his department was reorganised.

Julius meanwhile, set himself up as a street trader.

"I don't have any other job - I used to work in a casino until it closed because of poor business," he says.

Encouraging growth

The new government in Kenya says that entrepreneurship should be used to help rebuild the economy after years of neglect.

It wants to offer better services and opportunities for these businesses in exchange for taxes.

Anyang Nyong, the minister of planning, said the government had not given informal workers a proper tenure in the past and they had not been taxed.

It is an anomaly he wants to correct.

"If we provide infrastructure and services to the small sector, and also create facilities for more credit, it will stimulate growth and employment," he said.

"In most economies, it is the small-scale enterprises which are usually the growth areas," he added.

Getting better

On the "matatu" route, Kennedy says that things have already changed under the new government.
Corruption prevention suggestion box
Anti-corruption measures are working

Potholes have been filled, traffic lights have been repaired and, most importantly, he no longer has to pay bribes to traffic police.

He thinks the government's clamp down on corruption is a sign that things can only get better.

"There was a sense of hopelessness and corruption was accepted as a way of life," he says.

"But with the new government we are seeing that the political will is actually there - the issue of the sacred cows is fast fading now."

So like most Kenyans, Kennedy is optimistic about the future.

But he still has to take one day at a time as he ferries his passengers in and out of Nairobi.


SEE ALSO:
Kenya investigates energy firms
11 Mar 03 |  Business
Kenya needs $800m of aid
11 Mar 03 |  Business
Kenyan tax chief resigns
03 Mar 03 |  Business


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