TechnoServe: Empowering micro-retailers in Kenya

We chatted with TechnoServe’s Kris Ansin, Country Director, and Elsie Ngina, Entrepreneurship Program Manager, to discuss their experience as a Moody’s Foundation partner and reflect on our joint ventures aimed at ending poverty through entrepreneurship. Discover more about our efforts!

Growing the family business

For over 50 years, TechnoServe has worked to alleviate poverty and increase economic growth in some of the world’s poorest nations. “We’re a mid-sized, middle-aged organization, that’s constantly reinventing itself,” jokes Kris. But with age comes wisdom and that’s where TechnoServe’s experience helps. In the last seven years, they’ve become deeply involved in supporting entrepreneurship in Kenya, with a recent focus on the micro-retail sector.

Between 85% to 90% of Kenyans’ shops are small family-run stores, called Dukas in Swahili. These Dukas sell $11 trillion worth of goods annually in developing countries. TechnoServe developed their Smart Duka initiative to help strengthen these businesses by working to increase the profitability of high-potential small retail shops in Kenya.

While the Smart Duka initiative concentrates on small retailers, its goal is anything but small, aiming to revolutionize and empower these businesses. In one year, they aim to support and enhance capacity of at least 1,000 micro-retailers. Each business undergoes an intense training curriculum: shop management practices, marketing techniques, supply chain, responsible waste management, managing inventory, and investment opportunities to name a few. Elsie explains, “We want these businesses to grow and evolve into thriving enterprises, not to remain small shops”. These modules give Duka owners perspective on best business practices, market assessment, intelligence, and opportunities so they can expand their businesses.”

Pillars of the partnership

While social investing is important, there are many ways we support TechnoServe.

  • Shared visibility: One of the most important things we can do is amplify their message. We do this through content creation such as blog posts, videos and social media.
  • Employee engagement: Our volunteers engage in mentoring opportunities and virtual workshops. Most recently, we helped develop a fundraising presentation with a list of potential partners – giving them greater access to our expansive network.
  • Thought leadership: We developed a new curriculum on waste management that is being shared with store owners.
  • Board level engagement: a corporate advisory council has been launched – and our two representatives, Rahul Ghosh, MD-Sustainable Finance, and Brahim Elglioui, Sr Dir-Regional Manager, will assist TechnoServe to think through social finance, analytics, new relationships, and how to bring other corporations to the table.

“Our partnership is unique in addressing one of the key challenges we’re facing in Kenya: unemployment,” says Elsie. “Micro-retailers employ about 60% of the young population and women in Kenya. Our work with Moody's has a key focus to reach 70% women micro retailers.”

Committed to change

For us, volunteerism isn't something that’s done sporadically; it’s a commitment to understand, learn, and uplift; it’s about developing deep relationships with all our partners.

“Moody’s volunteers internalize our training, co-develop our presentations, and have engaging relationships with business owners,” says Elsie. Kris echoes her sentiment, “There is a lot of repeat engagement and that speaks to the character of Moody’s and their teams.”

Our volunteers have not only made a significant impact on the lives of business owners, but they have gained so much from this experience. Kateryna Neuberg, Product Consultant, Moody’s Analytics says: “Working with the Duka owners was personally rewarding, as I too operated a beauty and cosmetics shop post-university. During my session on record keeping and shop management, I was able to share my experiences and insights with the participants who were engaged and eager to learn. It was a very positive experience.”

There’s so much more to explore with TechnoServe – check out the video to learn more about the work we’re doing together.

This story is part of a series highlighting the relationship between Moody’s Foundation and its partners. At Moody’s, we take a comprehensive approach to social investing, employee engagement, and pro bono service to empower small businesses and support ecosystem restoration in emerging markets.

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