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Investing in Kenya’s Young Micro-Entrepreneurs

A growing number of young Kenyans have established informal micro-businesses, or “hustles,” since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Low-cost interventions that help hustles grow into full-time concerns would protect young people against the pandemic’s economic impact and help drive recovery.

NAIROBI – The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout have hit everyone in Kenya hard. But at the height of lockdown measures, while the formal sector of the economy ground to a halt, the informal sector demonstrated its resilience. For young people in particular, whose schools were closed and whose parents may have lost their jobs, the informal sector has been a lifeline.

Since the start of the pandemic, an increasing number of young Kenyans have established informal micro-businesses, or “hustles.” In an April 2020 SMS survey by the Shujaaz Inc. network, 5% of young people said they had set up a hustle for the first time since the pandemic began. By May, 16% of them had, and in August, an additional 10% reported starting a new business.

Kenya’s young micro-entrepreneurs have shown remarkable resilience. True, like almost all Kenyan businesses, many had to scale back or close at the height of the lockdown earlier last year. But polling and interviews with our network show that micro-entrepreneurs have adapted rapidly. Faced with a crisis, they started up again, adapted their business models, or profited from new opportunities by producing face masks, growing vegetables, or delivering food to their communities.

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