There are millions of jua kali business owners in Kenya, in Nairobi alone there is an estimate of well over half a million experts in all of kind of works. The literal translation of Jua Kali in Kenyan Kiswahili is ‘fierce sun’ or ‘hot sun’ The actual meaning of the word in Kenya, is a businessperson, or entrepreneur that can undoubtedly fix or practically do anything upon request.
The creativity of jua kali artisans in Kenya is sometimes mind blowing; things that you didn’t even imagine could work again, somehow manage to still work. Their realm of creativity is limitless.
Case and point – the carpenter who saw a DIY video on YouTube and was able to build, a seat which can also be converted and used as a dinning table. That seems quite complex. The digital age has come uplift such people in the informal sector.
In the past, these workers would make their items then sell it on the side of the road. Now, the have the option of posting their products on the internet and selling them online. They also have the opportunity to learn new skills (using the internet) that can be used to improve the quality of their products. The rise of mobile banking and mobile money enables them to keep track of their finances which can in the long run, enable them to get loans to expand and/or improve their businesses. The government has also developed policies that makes some of their raw materials cheaper.
It is definitely a new day. As time keeps changing, we can be assured in the fact that the jua kali sector will change with the times. And will continue to be a source of employment for millions of Kenyans. The only difference is that, it will keep on getting better and better till we have thousands of factories hiring millions of Kenyans. Make way for the digital jua kali.
WRITTEN BY IAN MUCHINA