Tuesday, April 04, 2006

UNIVERSITY OF NAIROBI-SIFE : Reaching Up And Reaching Down

It's not often that a group of individuals that is reaching up to improve itself will take the time to reach down to help someone else with the same goals. But that is just what the University of Nairobi-SIFE (UoNSIFE) team is doing.

SIFE, in case you have not read my previous article about Students In Free Enterprise is an organization that promotes business competition among university students in order to help bring the world together and to foster development and fellowship.

But what is especially unique about the University of Nairobi-SIFE team is that they have agreed to help with a village Business Plan Competition in the nearby community of Kangemi. Through the efforts of Bikundo Onyari a resident of Kangemi, the village has partnered with Nabuur to work towards establishing a community a Business Plan Competition. Nabuur is a Dutch based charity that supports on-line volunteers that lend assistance to communities in developing countries through the use of the Internet. When the Nabuur volunteers and Bikundo Onyari put their heads together they decided that it would be a good idea to see if they could get some assistance with their plans for a Business Plan Competition from SIFE. As it turned out, the members of University of Nairobi-SIFE

It has been said that: "In their efforts to make a difference, SIFE students have been described as teachers, mentors, consultants and entrepreneurs; but the people around the world whose lives have been changed by their work call them heroes." And the SIFE students are certainly heroes to the people of Kangemi.

Because SIFE is only open to students enrolled in a tertiary institution during the academic year in which the competition takes place, the community members who are not enrolled in a university are not eligible to participate. But, because the University of Nairobi-SIFE team is helping Kangemi to have its own Business Plan Competition, those individuals will now be able to engage in the same type of activity as the university students.

SIFE says that its vision is: "Helping others achieve their dreams through free enterprise education" And their actions speak as loud as their words.

And because their Mission is: " To give college students the best opportunity to make a difference and to develop leadership, teamwork and communication skills through learning, practicing, and teaching the principles of free enterprise;" the effort to assist the village of Kangemi falls right in line with that. Now, the students are also teachers.

The good deeds of UoNSIFE also exemplify the SIFE Philosophies
"Community philosophy: Give a man fish; he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a life time"

"Teaching philosophy: Tell me and I will forget, show me and I might remember, involve me and I will learn"

"Leadership Philosophy: People support what they help create"

UoNSIFE is a University Pre-Professional Association that was founded in the year 2002 and their membership is drawn from 7 faculties with a Faculty advisor and a Business Advisory Board.

In addition to its work with Kangemi, UoNSIFE is involved in the following projects:

UoNSIFE Projects 2005-2006


The project is dubbed pambazuka, which is an initiative targeting young ladies from the Kibera Community Youth Programme. It will involve the making of traditional handicraft by use of beads, dried banana leaves and an assortment of other traditional materials. The outcome of the handiwork is to be inspired by the rich cultural diversity that exists in Kibera.

The income obtained from the sales will be channeled towards uplifting the economic standard of the ladies and to keep them away from the social ills that abound in the informal settlement.

Besides making the handiwork, the team will be taught basic accounting skills, marketing and how to copyright their work.


Having Identified a Piece of Land along Nairobi River around the Globe cinema roundabout we aim at teaching street income on growing tree seedlings.
We are in the process of partnering with Green Belt who we aim to sell the seedlings to. This will earn the street People some income.

Then the seedling bought will be used in Ukambani to in reforestation for trees used in building the sand dams. The sand dams are used to for irrigation during the dry periods which helps in fighting famine.


The project involves helping a certain entrepreneur in Kitengela in marketing his of charcoal ovens and cookers. The cookers are very heat efficient in that from the design only about 15% heat is lost to the atmosphere. The ovens are also heat efficient to the same degree. They use about 1 to 1 1/4 bags of charcoal in a month, heating daily for approximately 1hour.


The target audience is the Juakali artisans along racecourse road. The aim is to Sharpen their business acumen such that they can manage their businesses better and realize greater profits by minimizing expenses, cash flow management, and alternative investments.


This project aims at coming up with a Stock Exchange Simulator to aid in learning about stocks and stock trading. There have been stock booms in the past but only a few middle class Kenyans have been able to benefit from them due to the ownership distribution pattern. The main reason middle class people don't engage in stock trading is simply inertia; they lack the 'push' necessary to take what seems to them to be a big step. It is in response to this that UoNSIFE is coming up with the Stock Exchange Simulator.


The people of Kangemi are working to set up an Entrepreneur Resource Centre. This centre will prepare young people to enter the job market either by starting their own businesses or by engagement into the formal sector.

Bikundo Onyari wrote about Kangemi:

"Kangemi is a cosmopolitan community bringing together over 42 ethnic group's form all over Kenya. This is because of its nearness to the capital city, Nairobi. It is also in the city that the industrial areas are concentrated. The community is famous in the struggle for the country's independence in the 1940's. The original inhabitants are not very well known. It is sometimes told that the Maasai's were the first migrants and were famous for their cattle. These people were nomads and they used to move from one place to another searching for pasture for their cattle. Later another tribe, the Agikuyu occupied the area and started farming.'

'Part of the area was turned to a settlement scheme for white farmers during the pre-independence period. The farmers planted cash crops like coffee for export to other countries. The white farmers employed most of the locals in the farms as labourers. The rest of the locals were recruited in the World War while the rest joined the freedom fighters (Mau Mau). With the dominance of the whites, the culture of the area is not recorded and its difficult to state the correct culture as it was."

"Kangemi is one of the low-income settlements in the suburbs of Kenya's capital city Nairobi. Most of the young people are jobless, and therefore an easy prey for HIV/AIDS, alcoholism and other social ills. The people of Kangemi have united to give the youth a future, by setting up an Entrepreneur Resource Centre."

"Since many youths have a higher education in Kangemi (56%), we thought of not only bringing them to work, but also letting them develop their own ideas about possible businesses. This way they are likely to be even more engaged/motivated and generate additional income (besides the existing businesses!). And this is how they came up with the idea of a Business Plan Competition.

Bikundo Onyari felt that the community needed help developing the rules for the competition, finding funding for the competition and finally promoting the competition. He reached out to Nabuur and then to SIFE, and as a result, some great things are happening.

UoNSIFE , Nabuur and the people of Kangeme - it's a good combination, and you will hear more about each of them. But in the meantime, visit each of their web sites to learn more about what is going on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The way foward to economic growth is the use of our locally available resource to further production.With an organisation like uonSIFE,students are able to channel their ideas in enterprenuership.They enable use of untapped potential from local people who may not have skils and expertise on how to create money.keep it up!