“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 has made calls to over 5,000 entrepreneurs and savings group leaders to understand their challenges and provide remote mentoring and vital health information. Using cell phones, the 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 implemented plans to provide digital grant disbursements and remote ongoing mentoring through SMS. We are in conversation with technology providers to find innovative solutions to transform our program to coincide with social distancing regulations
- Business owners’ adaptations: Retail and essential service businesses have moved from major markets back to villages. Some business owners are making new products, such as masks and soap, 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:
- Office reopening: After 3.5 months of working remotely from home, field staff has returned to the field and our offices adhering to strict health and safety protocols.
- Sharing health and safety information: We continue to share important Covid-19 information with all of our staff members so they can best protect themselves, their families, and the people we serve.
- 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 members that we are committed to retaining them and paying them their salary and benefits.
Covid-19 Situation in Kenya and Uganda
As of December 3, there are 21,612 reported cases with 206 deaths of Covid-19 in Uganda. In Kenya, there are now 88,115 confirmed cases and 1,512 deaths. As the first few cases were detected, the Kenyan and Ugandan governments took rapid action in an effort to minimize the spread of the virus, including closing the borders and airports, banning gatherings, shutting down public transportation, enforcing curfews, closing markets for all non-essential businesses, and implementing social distancing.
Both Uganda and Kenya have now reopened their borders and welcomed international travelers. While the markets remain closed in Uganda for items other than food, public transportation has resumed. In Kenya, most restrictions have now been released. 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
When Covid-19 hit East Africa, Village Enterprise responded immediately to provide business owners, and their families, with the resources to build resilience during and after the pandemic. Due to these extraordinary circumstances, the need to reach our entrepreneurs without traveling or holding physical meetings became vital. We pivoted by providing remote mentoring using Short Messaging Service (SMS) to help entrepreneurs and business mentors identify solutions, adapt, and innovate during the onset of the crisis. To provide capital for new businesses, we successfully completed grants disbursements using mobile money in Kenya and Uganda. And to build upon our successes with digital technologies, we launched a design challenge to develop a complete digital version of our program. A design challenge is a human-centered approach to innovation that integrates the needs of our entrepreneurs, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for our organization’s success.
Impact data indicates our entrepreneurs have built resilience and have adapted amid the Covid-19.
- No significant difference in business value at program exit before and after pandemic lockdown.
- Higher business profit for post vs. pre-pandemic businesses among businesses that experimentally received a $450 instead of a $150 seed capital transfer.
- No differences in business membership attrition
Village Enterprise isn’t giving up, and neither are our business owners.