TradeRelief insists on seeing a positive social impact from its loans. Social impact, however, is a deliberately loose concept, offering local businesses room to interpret the needs of the community themselves. While
most applicants opt for employment generation and sponsorships of orphans’ education, some have been more creative. Here are three examples of what businesses are doing on top of employment creation to improve the lives of people in the community:
One Touch Initiatives is the area’s first cyber cafe and its biggest. In an increasingly online world, One Touch offer computer literacy training and helps ordinary community members access the government’s online portal where increasingly access to public services is to be found. One Touch is building a centre specifically for this purpose, where government and other online services are made accessible to a population generally not very computer literate. What is more, One Touch has plans to operate a mobile unit: a van equipped with computers, printers and internet access to go into the rural areas to connect people further afield. The social benefits arising from One Touch’s operations are thus much larger than the nine staff members currently employed.
Imani Catering Group offers catering and decorations for events such as weddings, funerals and other functions. While employing up to 30 people at a time, Imani has already trained and set lose two groups who have started their own catering companies, and is in the process of training a third. This causes a high turnover of staff and the number of people who has passed through their training programme and on to a sustainable business career is well over 60.
Agaja Electricals installs power lines to rural communities. The company increasingly wins contracts offered by the government parastatal Kenyan Power and Electricals Ltd. to connect the region’s secondary schools to the main grid, so that the students can receive training in computer literacy and have electricity in their dormitories (most secondary schools in Kenya are boarding schools). Once all the secondary schools are connected, Kenyan Power will move on to the primary schools and rural government offices, aiming at electricity for all. While the installations are a source of income for Agaja, the benefits from their business operations extends far beyond the 16 young men and women who has received training and employment from the company.
As the above examples show, positive social impact has many guises and comes in many shapes and forms but always emanating from the businesses interpretation of what the community needs. TradeRelief therefore more
of a facilitator enabling businesses to reach more people, while it’s the businesses that actually improve people’s lives.