Market Opportunities Open Up For Refugee Entrepreneurs
He has been living in Kenya since 2000 after fleeing war in his country. The only thing he carried with him was skill in making sculptures.
“I started carving when I was about 20 years old back home in Congo. There are so many trees in my country and working with wood is our tradition,” says Kapya Katungwa.
Kapya, a 40 year old refugee from Congo is one of the artists that participated and showcased their work at the market day held in July 2017 at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) offices in Nairobi.
He has been living in Kenya since 2000 after fleeing war in his country. The only thing he carried with him was skill in making sculptures. Kapya who has employed six (6) refugees and three (3) Kenyans at his warehouse located in the outskirts of Nairobi is one of the beneficiaries of UNHCR’s enterprise development livelihood program.
His unique rustic pieces made from Leleshwa hardwood, décor and kitchen carvings dotted the tent allocated for his artwork. Amidst the buzz in the market place, he meticulously attended to clients perhaps praying that it will be his lucky day.
“Livelihoods projects are important because they preserve the skills of the refugees as well as their cultural heritage. It will help them to be self-reliant and to live with dignity.”
On the other end of the market, 24 year old, Kenneth Munene, a Kenyan visual artist and a trainee under Artists for Refugees, a livelihoods project that is funded by UNHCR and implemented by DRC was also displaying his mastery in painting.
“The market opportunities have helped me a great deal. In 2016, Danish Refugee Council helped us to attend and participate in the Nairobi Fashion Market in Karen. I sold goods worth Ksh. 36,000. That is just one of the many market access opportunities given to us.”
The market day brought together ten (10) refugee entrepreneurs from Congo, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi alongside Kenyan entrepreneurs who are beneficiaries of UNHCR’s livelihood projects. The entrepreneurs made sales worth KES 136,750 (USD 1,367.50).
UNHCR Colleague admires some of the African fabric being sold by Esperance from Rwanda. UNHCR/M.Ndubi
Clementine Uwizeye from Rwanda specializes in Jewelry and Handbags
The Market Day at UNHCR Offices in Nairobi. UNHCR/M.Ndubi
Kapya Katungwa admiring a finished piece at his workshop in Nairobi. UNHCR/M.Ndubi
Kenneth Munene displaying his paintings during the Market Day at UNHCR Offices in Nairobi.
Kapya Katungwa's pieces from his 'Vumbua' collection on display during the Market Day. UNHCR/M.Ndubi
UNHCR Livelihood Officer, Ms Danya Kattan explained that the market day was important because it gave exposure to refugees and gave them an opportunity with staff and visitors. In addition, it would help refugees interact and create a network of customers.
“Livelihoods projects are important because they preserve the skills of the refugees as well as their cultural heritage. It will help them to be self-reliant and to live with dignity, either in the country of asylum, in a third country or if they return to their country of origin.” Says Kattan.
UNHCR in collaboration with livelihoods working group partners such as Danish Refugee Council (DRC), are working to improve market access for refugee artisans through linkage to renowned trading malls, product quality development training and increased and regularized participation in local and national trade exhibitions.
“I started carving when I was about 20 years old back home in Congo.”
Through this partnership, 1,008 refugees have in 2017 benefited from different livelihood interventions of which 31 refugees received business grants which have enabled them establish and expand their small and medium sized enterprises.
584 refugees are participating in community based savings and loans supported associations, enabling them to save and access group small scale loans at lower interest rates. All the refugees and Kenyans supported with business grants also received basic entrepreneurship training.
“The grant I got through DRC has helped me a lot. I managed to make a lot of products because of that grant.” Says Kapya Katungwa. “I am grateful for this business because I have money to use as well as save some. It takes care of my needs.”
Among the challenges experienced by refugee artisans is limited access to local, national and international markets owing to; lack of documentation, lack of information on markets available and inaccessibility to product development services.
“The grant I got through DRC has helped me a lot. I managed to make a lot of products because of that grant.”
UNHCR and its partners are currently embarking on a new global, collaborative initiative designed to link refugee artisans with markets. MADE51 – Market Access, Design and Empowerment of refugee artisans – will showcase the product collection through branding and a marketing platform, widening sales opportunities and offering new market access for refugee artisans and their supporting social enterprises. UNHCR and partners are also exploring means and ways of reaching out other malls in Nairobi.