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Business mentorship gives entrepreneur a choice

Mkirya Magera was a small-scale farmer who depended on proceeds from cotton to provide for his family. However, the returns were poor because farming costs were high and there were no government subsidies. So he started to look for other ways to make a living.

In September, 2013, Mkirya, a resident of Mwanzabuliga village on the eastern shores of Lake Victoria in Tanzania, decided to invest the meagre earnings from his harvest into a new business. Having seen how he and his fellow villagers had to travel up to two kilometres just to power their mobile phones, he decided to set up solar phone-charging venture. He built a small structure where he installed a 60-Watt solar panel at a cost of TZS 450,000 ($ 206). The business grew and he was soon charging 20 phones a day.

In 2014 as he was striving to grow his business, Mkirya came to hear about GVEP and the work it was doing with businesses to increase access to clean energy. He was offered mentorship on financial, technical and business skills from GVEP under the Capital Access for Renewable Energy Enterprises (CARE2) programme which supports solar phone charging businesses. Importantly, the mentorship helped him identify more business opportunities in his area.

As his business started to attract more clientele to the area, the ambitious entrepreneur felt the urge to expand. Through GVEP’s financial linkage Mkirya obtained a TZS 1,000,000 ($ 459) loan from Tanzania Postal Bank in August, 2014, which he used to buy a 200- Watt solar system. He then ventured into a hair cutting business alongside phone charging. The barber shop picked up momentum and within days he was attending to at least five clients a day. His flourishing business enabled him to clear the loan in a short time and soon Mkirya was making an average of TZS 360,000 ($ 165) a month, up from TZS 180,000 ($ 83).

“The financial assistance I received enabled me to meet the growing need for phone charging services in this area. The initial solar output could not sustain many clients at a go. Acquiring more capacity meant more and happy customers,” says Mkirya.

His hair cutting business also registered remarkable growth as his income leaped from TZS 75,000 ($ 34) per month in the few weeks of business start-up to TZS 225,000 ($ 103) per month.

“The business has immensely transformed my life. Besides educating my children, I have been able to plough the profits back to other economic activities,” says the father of four. His two children are in secondary school while the rest have completed school and are civil servants.

Mkirya has also bought four bulls that he uses to till his eight-acre field, from where he grows a variety of crops. He also offers ploughing services to neighbours at a fee. He has also bought four dairy cows and makes money by selling their milk. “Initially, I only had three acres of land, but which I managed to increase as my farming business expanded,” he says.

His family life has also transformed. He has bought a motorbike that he uses for transport and has constructed a hygienic modern pit latrine for his home. He plans to set up a bigger shop in the area later this year.

He says GVEP’s intervention has seen him overcome several obstacles in his business including the competition he faces from upcoming similar businesses in the area. Improved marketing and customer care skills have given him an edge.

“GVEP’s sustainable and impactful mentorship to entrepreneurs like Mkirya has made it possible for them to provide energy and related services in off-grid areas. We identify market opportunities in respective areas and advise entrepreneurs to venture into them for maximum returns,” says GVEP’s Tanzania Country Manager Adam Mbwambo.