Business in Africa
Business activities amongst Friends in Africa are mainly of two kinds - raising funds for Quaker work, and micro-finance. A third emerging area of work is capacity building for entrepreneurship, growing out of the first two.
Raising funds for Quaker work
Kenyan Friends have many calls on their funds. They support local Friends schools by helping maintain the buildings and by providing extra teachers and facilities. Some help needy students with fees and other expenses. Some support health clinics. From time to time resources are needed for peace-building work, such as the Friends Church Peace Team, for supporting individuals affected by HIV and AIDS, and their families, and for other community needs. They also need funds for their own meetings and conferences, and for initial training and professional development for their pastors. And they have to maintain and develop their own buildings and land, and meet various overhead costs. As a result they have developed a number of business ventures, which augment what church members are able to donate.
Farming: this is probably the most important activity. Chavakali, Vokoli, Kaimosi and Vihiga yearly meetings are in a region well suited to dairy farming and tea growing, and use their land for both. Kakamega focuses on poultry keeping, Lugari has 40 acres of sugarcane, and Chavakali keeps bees. Malava has dairy farming and sugar cane. Lugari has also built 13 fishponds, which are a valuable source of protein for the local community, as well as generating income.
Letting buildings and facilities, for housing, holidays and conferences: this is another important fundraising activity. The ‘United Society of Friends Women’ (USFW) has been able to assist the work in Lugari by planting maize, millet and groundnuts as food for meetings and conferences. The East Africa yearly meeting, in Nairobi, has chairs, tents and a public address system that the Quaker youth hire out for school and church functions, and for weddings and funerals. Malava rents houses, and also tents, chairs and musical equipment. Their branch of UFSW plans to buy a bus for their own use and for hire. A meeting van provides public transport in Eldoret.
Other enterprises: Chavakali has a furniture-making business. Lugari has 17 acres of indigenous trees, populated by monkeys and other wildlife, and hopes to develop this as a tourist attraction.
The SEEDS project: this is a new venture being developed on behalf of African Friends by the Friends United Meeting (FUM) in Kisumu, Kenya, on Lake Victoria. 100 acres of land have been leased and seed maize has been planted. This is potentially very profitable farming. The proceeds will enable FUM to strengthen its support for Friends schools, through capacity building for teachers and administrators, sponsorship of students and infrastructural development. This work will begin in Kenya, but will then extend to many other countries.
This is a form of financing that makes small loans, and occasionally grants, to enable small enterprises to get started. They are usually given to groups, rather than to individuals, and the groups are expected to provide mutual support in putting the funds to good use. Typically the groups have no collateral that would enable them to get loans in other ways, and they are often groups of women. In Kenya, they are often youth groups too.
Most yearly meetings in Kenya provide microfinance for business ventures. The 16 Kenya yearly meetings have set up a rural service programme, which also provides small loans.
The US-based Quaker organisation ‘Right Sharing of World Resources’ (RSWR), gives loans/grants of $4-5000 to small agricultural and industrial enterprises, mostly in Kenya, but also in Sierra Leone. DRC (Congo) Friends have a small loans fund for women, with support from the Quaker-Congo Partnership in the UK. The American Friends Service Committee, through its Africa office, has supported initiatives in Zimbabwe, Burundi and Mozambique. Hlekweni in Zimbabwe plans to do the same, with support from the UK-based ‘Friends of Hlekweni’.
Capacity-building for business
Three new initiatives hold great promise for this – the FUM SEEDS project, the proposed ‘school for social entrepreneurs’ in Hlekweni, and the OCODEMA (formerly AFSC) organization in Mozambique. All intend to equip young people with skills that will enable them to generate work for themselves and for others.