The power of the coin

51

BY IRENE NJOKI

Many people do not find much value in coins. This is probably why you will find 5, 10 and 20bob coins full in the beggars’ cups along the streets, with no one attempting to steal from them. It would shock you, for instance, to find out what the county government officer collects at a public toilet in a day.

Foreigners in Kenya, however, know the power of the coin and have invented creative ways of tapping it. It is no wonder therefore that some Tanzanians have ‘invested’ in their disabled by shipping them into Kenya where they line them on streets of major cities as beggars. It is not a secret that over 90% of Nairobi’s disabled street beggars are of Tanzanian origin and that they get dropped off early morning and picked late evening every single day of the week. The ‘entrepreneurs’, so to speak, of this uncanny venture rake in millions of shillings, which they repatriate to grow their own economy.

Besides the begging business, however, foreigners in Kenya, some with training that would secure them white-collar jobs have immersed their energies in numerous other legit, smalltime businesses targeting a coin or two at a moment but that rake in hundreds of shillings at close of business everyday.

Charles Jjoku, famously known as Wasmokie, for instance opens his egg and sausage business at Kasarani, Nairobi every early morning. Unlike others who open at the evening hours only, his is a full time job.

“This is my job and I put all my focus on it to achieve my best”, he says. After completing his A levels, the Ugandan joined Makerere University and pursued a degree in Journalism and Media studies. After graduating in 2011, he stayed in his home country helping his parents in farming as he looked for a job. Unfortunately, he did not secure one.

“Life was becoming hard and so I had to request for some capital from my parents so I could start selling second hand clothes of which they did,’’ says Charles. He had never been into business before but according to him, there was that inner drive that motivated him. He started the business in September 2011 but ended it in March 2012 since things didn’t turn out as expected.

Fortunately, Charles met a friend they were with at high school who had a good business idea that he thought he could buy. David Kagwisagye had dropped out of school shortly before completing his A levels due to lack of fees. It didn’t take a while before he found his way to Kenya. He ventured into small business of selling roasted gizzards and Chicken pieces at Seasons in kasarani and was making good money. He shared the idea with Jjoku who immediately made up his mind to migrate to Kenya.

“I explained this to my parents who thought I was being unrealistic at the time but still allowed me to leave my country for Kenya,” Charles narrates. In December 2012, Charles made his way to immigration offices, acquired a visa and moved to Kenya.

The journey was not smooth. He struggled for two months working for his friend and trying to see how things worked out. Through this, Jjoku saved whatever his friend gave him in return for the little help he offered in roasting.

“By the end of 2012, I felt I was ready to set up my own business. Through the help of David, I secured a workstation at Hunters in Kasarani, a different place from his.’’

January 2013, Jjoku started a sausage and egg business that he operates to date. Being well known in the area, customers queue for his delicacies. He prepares 50 sausages and 50 eggs daily going for 25 and 20 respectively. The service is never complete without the Kachumbari that most customers prefer. Often, he makes between Sh1500 to Sh2200 net every day and walks home a happy man.

Charles lives in a single room paying Sh3000 monthly rent. Making a minimum of Sh1500 a day totals to Sh45000 a month, minimum. Converted to Ugandan shilling, it makes good money for Charles. Through this small business, Jjoku has helped his younger sister through college and is now finalizing his flats for rental in his home country. It is now six years and counting for Charles’s sausage and egg business and only the sky seems the limit for this self-drive young man.