How The Smart Duka Initiative Is Transforming Lives

Duka is a common term in Kenya. It simply means shop. The term is used to refer to micro-retailers in Kenya who sell goods and services to Kenyans. These micro-retailers sell their products in small quantities and at affordable prices, making them the darling of many, especially the low-income households.

In Kenya, micro retailers supply nearly 80 percent of all consumer goods sold to low-income communities. The micro and small-enterprise (MSME) sectors are incredibly important, accounting for 30 percent of Kenya’s GDP and employing more than 8 million people directly and indirectly.

Due to COVID-19, micro-retailers have taken on an increasingly crucial role in ensuring access to critical goods like food, medicine, and hygiene products in their communities. However, their core business objective has also now shifted to survival.

Just like any other micro, small and medium enterprise, Dukas in Kenya are faced with a myriad of challenges among the stiff competition from the big players like supermarkets, online shops, inadequate financial support, and failure to embrace technology.

Before Covid-19, data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicated that close to 450,000 SMEs were dying in Kenya annually. This translated to at least 30,000 monthly and 1,000 dying daily. With the pandemic in place, the numbers might be beyond imagination.

To help Dukas survive, TechnoServe started the Smart Duka Initiative, a partnership with Moody’s Foundation that is tailored towards business and financial support that helps micro-retailers navigate and survive through the crisis and reduce the pandemic’s negative impact on them and their communities.

The Smart Duka program envisions sectors characterized by thriving, profitable micro-retail shops that are run by women, men, and youth entrepreneurs who have the skills, access to finance, and access to technology to sustainably grow their businesses and increase their incomes.

The program has been implementing 100 percent digital training to improve business skills and increase shopkeepers’ chances of business survival through the crisis, to build their skills in critical areas, including shop management practices, supply chain management, financial management, and investment opportunities.

At the same time, TechnoServe has the Pan-African Youth Entrepreneur Program that has been running since 2017. The program has so far supported more than 4,800 youth micro-retailers in Kenya, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, and Tanzania, to improve their business management skills and provide links to finance and markets. Graduates of the program have seen an average 34-percent increase in their revenue.

As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic grows, it threatens the survival of micro and small businesses, especially in the developing countries. These businesses play a key role in ensuring millions of African consumers earning less than 2 dollars a day access basic consumer goods as well as provide employment opportunities to other youth, offering a solution to the ballooning unemployment problem in Africa.