Most countries across the globe have been hit by the covid-19 pandemic and Kenya is not  an exemption. This has left many families with limited or no source of income thus unable to afford basic needs. Many parents have lost their jobs while others have been sent on unpaid leave. Consequently, meeting their families’ basic needs remains a challenge.

 Joyce Adhiambo’s family is one of the many families struggling to meet their daily needs now. “Adhiambo, 21, is a young entrepreneur from Bombolulu area in Kibera informal settlements.  Adhiambo’s typical day starts at Makina market stalls, not far from her residence in Olympic area in Kibera. At this market, she buys soap making ingredients. Joyce runs a business where she makes and sells liquid soap to the residents of Kibera.

Many Form Four graduates across the country receive their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (K.C.S.E) results with the hope of joining tertiary institutions to pursue their dream careers. Most parents are left in a dilemma owing to the competing family needs and the limited sources of income. Therefore, some prioritize secondary education over tertiary education for their children. This leaves most of the high school graduates with grades below the University cut off points with no choice but to find alternative means of realizing their dreams.

“I completed my secondary education with the hope for a seamless transition to a tertiary institution as is the case for most form four graduates. My dream was to become a chef. Unfortunately, my parents could not raise my college fees . My younger siblings also needed secondary education; my parents were not able to afford keeping all of us in school at the same time. As a result, I decided to find an alternative means to my end,” she narrated.

 Adhiambo is one of the less fortunate form four graduates who are struggling to further their education. Many young people in informal settlements suffer the same fate and often fall victim to illegal behaviors such as crime, drug and substance abuse, or early marriage among others. She however chose a different path that would see her pursue her passion in hospitality.

“I joined the three-month Leadership Development and Entrepreneurship program run by Garden of Hope Foundation where I acquired skills in Entrepreneurship, Basic Computer, and Leadership. During my training period, participants were grouped and given Ksh500 to start and run a business for two weeks. This exposes us to a first-hand experience on entrepreneurship. The 500 bob challenge helps participants to test their business ideas and offers experiential learning. In our group, a member knew how to make the liquid soap so we decided to run with the idea. We were required to return the Sh500 with a profit after the two weeks. In the process, I learnt to make soap on my own and decided to start a small business out of it,” she explained.

“Following the Kenyan Government directives on fighting against covid-19, regular hand washing with soap has become the new normal. This has caused a drastic increase in demand for soap among Kibra residents. I make 20 liters of soap a week and make double the cost incurred. This enables me to support my family to meet at least the basic needs such as food. My parents’ jobs were halted due to the pandemic and were forced to stay home with no source of income,’’ added Joyce.

Even though Joyce seems to be thriving in her business during the crisis, it is not always easy for young upcoming Kenyan entrepreneurs. Most of them struggle with the growth of their business due to lack of basic financial management skills, business mentorship as well as dependency from family.

Joyce is one of the young Kenyan entrepreneurs who struggle with business growth and expansion yet still have visions for their initiatives as she narrates: “I am planning to set up my own store where I will be selling soap-making ingredients as well as making and selling liquid soap since there is only one store with soap making ingredients in Kibera and its environs.”

Just like many start-ups, Adhiambo has faced a number of challenges including financial constraints as she ends up supporting her family with all her savings when covid-19 struck and they did not have any source of income. “Sometimes I also end up using all the profit on household needs hence saving becomes difficult,” She laments.

Most youths in informal settlements such as Kibera tend to let go of their ambitions because their families are not able to afford school fees. This sometimes leads them to destructive paths, when in reality some organizations or individuals offer scholarships and even skills to the youth, which they can use as a means to achieve their dreams.

Adhiambo advises her fellow youth to find alternative means of earning an income as they await their college admission. “Sometimes parents cannot raise your college fees because the other siblings also need basic education. That should not be the end to your career journey. You can always find other means to support yourself and save to further your education.”  The 21-year-old  is optimistic that one day her savings will pay for her college education even up to a degree or masters level in the hospitality industry. says.

She also urged organizations empowering young people to put up follow-up mechanisms especially for young entrepreneurs in Kenya with no business mentors. This, she added, creates a positive environment, boosts the morale of the entrepreneur as well as providing a library of methods and strategies to draw from throughout your entrepreneurship journey.

Story by:  Sharon Karanja , Ismael Otieno and Floridah Atieno

Photos: Ismael Otieno