“Under the Hot Sun” – Jua Kali Businesses in Kenya

Millions of Kenyans work in small businesses as artisans, mechanics, and vendors under trying conditions, even without shelter from the elements. Many of them use entrepreneurial ingenuity and initiative as they strive to move beyond subsistence, supplementing incomes for their families and creating jobs for others. Since at least the 1980s, the Kenyan Government has recognized the importance and needs of the jua kali sector and proclaimed policies to promote its development. Yet, little has changed.

Local governments harass jua kali business owners, assessing arbitrary fees and confiscating goods. The businesses are commonly denied title to the land where they are located and are shut out of formal credit systems. The official federation appointed by the government to represent the jua kali has not heeded their input and as a consequence has become moribund.

Kayole Jua Kali Association, Nairobi

Kayole Jua Kali Association, Nairobi

The way forward appears to depend on the services and advocacy of voluntary jua kali associations. In recent years, a number of voluntary associations, thanks in part to CIPE’s help, have improved their governance and professionalized their services. What’s exciting is that they are working together on national advocacy, which has got the attention of Kenyan President Kibaki.

Now the associations are asking each arm of the government to do what it has been promising to do, to improve living conditions and improve the environment for small businesses. The lesson from this? For policies to get implemented, there needs to be an organized voice that truly represents a constituency and holds the government accountable. To learn more about the current activities of the jua kali associations, read CIPE’s newest Reform Case Study, based on interviews with the chairmen of four voluntary associations: Jua Kali Associations in Kenya: A Force for Development and Reform.

5 Responses to “Under the Hot Sun” – Jua Kali Businesses in Kenya

  1. I had the pleasure of working with Joshua Kaseru from the Kayole Jua Kali Association a couple of years ago. He is incredibly dynamic and has seemingly boundless energy — which it takes to build an effective association there now. His Jua Kali association serves the small businesses so well that it’s become a real community center and is able to offer other much-needed services in addition to advocacy. They offer an internet cafe and AIDS counseling and have been a real positive force in helping other small Jua Kali associations become better organized.

  2. Richard N.Muteti

    to whom it may concern,

    this is to update you with the information that the Kenya national federation of jua kali associations is now very much alive and running several programs with various development partners notable among them being KIRDI,KEBS,KIPI,Ministry of trade etc.
    to get the current status of the jua kali sector programs,kindly get in touch with:mr richard n muteti on the above email address or on 0722528273.
    thank you

  3. i think jua kali workers shouldn’t have to suffer any more of this!!!!

  4. @ richard,

    been trying to get contacts of the kenya National Federation of Jua kali Associations, or any of the independent associations to no avail. we are running a service that enables people with special skills – artisans – to post online ads right from their mobile phones. they don’t have to have internet…. our system also enables a mobile search engine that matches a skill to a location i.e say i was looking for a plumber in Kiambu, i will send an SMS saying FIND#PLUMBER#KIAMBU and the system will send back contacts of plumbers within the area. we are offering a 3 months FREE registration period to all jua kali artisans and was looking for a contact that can provide a comprehensive list of the artisans.. kindly get back to me on 0710 363 987/ 020 4444 7458

  5. The Jua Kali association is noble initiative formed with an aim o creating wealth through business opportunities provided for by various sector fof the economy. In deed, the SMES sector is undoubtedly a key employment base for millions of Kenyan youths and it will be interesting to see how such formation of the assiciations would result in accruing the benefits presented by the sector. Importantly, these associations, through the SME bill presented to Kenyan parliament, would assist them be part of the Tax net and reap the benefits as well. Lets see more associations formed in the near future