“Building resilience in the most vulnerable communities has never been more important. While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in the world, it does not affect us all equally. The poorest and most vulnerable are most at risk.”
Actions We’re Taking
In order to protect our staff and our business owners, we introduced the following measures:
1. Supporting our entrepreneurs and their families during this crisis
- Our field staff have made calls to over 3,400 business owners and savings group leaders to understand their challenges and provide remote mentoring and vital health information. Using cell phones, Village Enterprise field staff will continue to mentor and provide information to our business owners to ensure their health, safety, and financial resilience during this crisis.
2. Innovating and adapting in time of crisis:
- Technological solutions: We put plans in place to give digital grant disbursements and ongoing mentoring. We are in conversation with technology providers to find new, innovative solutions.
- Business owners’ adaptations: Retail and essential service businesses have moved from major markets back to villages. Some business owners are making new products to address urgent needs in their communities.
3. Ensuring our staff are safe and healthy during the crisis is a top priority. To do so, we introduced the following measures:
- Working remotely: We transitioned to working from home in all of our offices across East Africa and adjusted our operations so that we continue to serve our business owners remotely.
- Sharing health and safety information: We continue to share important COVID-19 information with all our staff so they can best protect themselves, their families, and the people we serve, as well as pass the information to our business owners.
- Continuing to pay salaries and benefits: We know that our field staff drives our impact and that their financial security is critical to our long-term success. We have reassured our staff that we are committed to retaining our staff and paying them their salary and benefits.
COVID-19 Situation in Kenya and Uganda
As of May 20th, there are 264 reported cases with no deaths of COVID-19 in Uganda, and the country has been in a full lockdown for 7 weeks. In Kenya, there are now 1,029 confirmed cases and 50 deaths, and the country went into a full lockdown on April 7. In an effort to minimize the spread of the virus, the Kenyan and Ugandan governments took rapid action as soon as they detected the first few cases, including closing the borders and airports, banning gatherings, shutting down public transportation and the use of cars, enforcing curfews, closing markets for all non-essential businesses, and implementing social distancing.
In late May and early June, Uganda will allow some stores and public transportation to resume, but transport is still restricted in the border districts. In Kenya, movement in and out of the Nairobi Metropolitan area and border districts is restricted, and there is a mandatory, country-wide curfew. You can learn more about the COVID-19 situation across Africa here.
While these efforts are beneficial for the population’s health and safety, they put the poorest and most vulnerable at financial risk. Most of our business owners have lost their ability to earn income as the markets and transportation shut down, and without that income, they can no longer buy food for their families.
Most Recent Update
Late April, Village Enterprise’s Monitoring and Evaluations team conducted phone interviews with over 1,100 small business owners in order to learn the most significant issues they are facing right now. Thanks to the M&E team and to the tireless work of our business mentors, who contacted over 5,000 business owners and 500 business savings groups by phone between the end of March and early May, we now have a greater understanding of the effects of COVID-19 on our business owners and their businesses.
The results show that the countrywide shutdowns of transportation and markets in Kenya and Uganda have severely effected our business owners, with many of them unable to sell their goods without a market. 71% of business owners in Uganda and 84% of business owners in Kenya report that their revenues have decreased either significantly or somewhat.
Despite these difficulties, Village Enterprise’s business owners remain optimistic! 75% of business owners in Uganda and 82% of business owners in Kenya are confident that their businesses will recover once the pandemic passes.
Village Enterprise isn’t giving up, and neither are our business owners.