The Journey to a Thousand Miles Starts in Gikomba

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Don’t we all miss life before ‘The Vid’ (Kevin Hart told us this is the bougee way of referring to Covid-19). 

So, today Pato, the jamaa from our office, was reminiscing about days before the lockdowns. Without the masking up, social distancing - yaani when we were living ‘normally’ 😉. On one of those days, Pato was going about his usual weekend business. Maerrands hapa kule before linking up with the boys later that afternoon. One of the errands was linking up with ‘Njoro wa Maluku’ who runs a gentleman’s shop in Gikomba Market. 

Pato had been looking for chinos for an upcoming all-white party. He enlisted Njoro onto the search and he had the specific one he wanted – an ex-UK Beckham-like look. According to Njoro, though several people had been eyeing it, offering to pay for it in cash, he had saved it for Pato. Njoro asked him to get to the shop immediately to collect it. He told Pato, “Wewe ni boys wangu siwezi kuangusha hata kama wanafika bei kukuliko.” Doesn’t your plug always use this line whenever they are luring you into a hasty purchase? 

To avoid losing the long-awaited buy, on that Saturday Pato made his way to Gikomba. On getting there, he discovers that he has no cash on him. Pato knows it is cool to use cashless options kama Natmobile but since it is the market, he rushes to the Gikomba Branch of National Bank of Kenya (NBK) that has an ATM to get some cash. 

On getting to Njoro’s stall, he finds him in a meeting with six other people - three ladies and three dudes. Njoro invites him to wait in a seat, as they conclude the meeting, in about five or so minutes. After the meeting, they disperse and head back to their stalls. Njoro is left with Wambu (who owns the stall next to Njoro’s), and Pato. 

Wambu and Njoro are still chatting animatedly, oblivious of the visitor in the stall. It is as if Pato is one of the mannequins standing outside their Mumbai Mall stalls to catch buyers’ eyes. Apparently, together with the other five, they belong to a chama. They discuss their chama’s progress, jubilating over finally managing to purchase and subdivide a parcel of land in Kamulu. Njoro is jumping all over the place excitedly…not the Michael Jordan-esque jumps, due to his ‘brief height endowment at 5.4’ 🤣 “Imagine I am a proud owner of land in Nairobi – a quarter an acre, manze!” Njoro exclaims at some point. 

Njoro and Wambu spend the next few minutes taking Pato through their journey to becoming land owners. A group of 8 traders had come together to save, as a way of cushioning their businesses during dry patches. Every week, they each deposited Kshs. 1000 in a joint account and the receipt or SMS confirmation passed to the chairperson for reconciliation. They would not have needed to do this if their account was domiciled in NBK, as they would be reconciling from the free monthly e-statements. One of them, Marto, was later kicked out for falling back on his weekly contributions. According to them, in any group, there is always that uncooperative team member dragging others behind.  As they progressed and their savings grew, they embarked on building a home for each member within the city. At first, it seemed ambitious, lakini chairman kept reminding them that, ‘hii life ni kujituma na tutaomoka’. After saving for three years, they identified a piece of land which they acquired and subdivided to give each of them a title. 

On his way from Gikomba, Pato was in a soliloquy. He decided that chama with the boys could be the way to go and a bridge to getting them to the next level. That evening the meetup was a serious one with the dream to a better tomorrow packaged, compounded and shared. 

Pato is one of those gifted salespeople who can sell you a city clock. Eddy – the math genius and an actuarial science graduate, crunched the numbers and visualized the rosy picture of what the future held, should they come together and work at it. Phil, a lawyer by profession, gave the steps to formalize and ensure that all their interests were well protected. 

Just like that a chama was formed in June 2019 and the team has consistently contributed ever since. Though, not willingly all the time, but to avoid the hefty fines that delays attract. However, their initial plan of financial empowerment by investing in properties has remained their foundation. 

Fast forward to this year, NBK rolled out a new product to help this chama and many others inch closer to their dreams. The Jenga Chama Loan offering, which is a tailored solution for Chamas and Investment groups. It avails credit of up to Kshs. 50million, payable in 72 months at a low interest rate on reducing balance. Through this loan, investment groups can venture into construction and agribusiness industries or even invest in property. 

Pato’s squad now feels ready to take the first step towards their maiden investment in property. Discussions are ongoing and yes, they do qualify to get some finances to boost this project. Stori haijaishia hapa, ni vile squad haijaamua kama they start in the suburbs of Runda or a property in Kitengela will do. Eddy has remained resolute that they have to be practical and grounded but Phil says kujiamini ni muhimu

-End-

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