Shujaaz Inc is a network of social ventures based in Nairobi, Kenya reaching 71% of all Kenyans aged 15-24 (2020). In collaboration with Unilever Kenya, Shujaaz Inc will launch a multi-platform campaign to train and recruit at least 10,000 young people into the retail business to help them become profitable and digitally-enabled retailers.
In Kenya, the career aspirations of young people often do not match reality. After leaving school, most young Kenyans aspire to work in the formal sector. However, research shows that less than 10% of those entering the workforce will ever have the opportunity to realise their dream of a formal job. As a result, millions of young people are turning to retail trading in the informal sector to earn an income and sustain a living.
Retail has a significant role in the informal market in Kenya. It is a vibrant and aspirational sector for young people, with around 235,000 enterprising young Kenyans already running dukas or kiosks (52% of whom are women). Some of these vendors are part of the Unilever distribution mechanism, successfully selling Unilever products alongside other wares.
However, many more aspiring young Kenyan entrepreneurs don’t have access to the training, skills support, networks, or the financial capital they need to break into the retail business.
A wide range of barriers prevents young people from succeeding in the retail sector, from the ‘cruel optimism’ of holding out for a formal sector future to the lack of access to education and training certificates – that further hinder access to finance or informal employment. This is especially true for young women living in rural areas, who often bear the brunt of economic exclusion.
The proposed project seeks to create rewarding, decent work for at least 10,000 young Kenyans (of which 6000 are women) through a unique new collaboration between Unilever Kenya and Shujaaz Inc’s network of ventures.
The programme aims to identify, recruit, and train young, aspiring retailers among Shujaaz Inc’s network to become official Unilever retailers, focusing on young women.
In the first phase of the programme, Shujaaz Inc will launch a campaign across its national multimedia platform, ‘Shujaaz’. The campaign will be designed to recruit thousands of high-potential young entrepreneurs from its 7.7m audience of young Kenyans.
In the second phase, inspired Shujaaz fans will be invited to sign-up for Shujaaz Inc’s newest venture, ‘MESH’ – a new online community for entrepreneurs in the informal economy. As part of MESH, aspiring retailers will have access to bespoke online training materials developed alongside Unilever Kenya to equip them with the skillsets they need to succeed as Unilever retailers. On completing the training, retailers will receive a new digital training certification.
As part of MESH, retailers will be able to build their professional networks and access peer mentorship opportunities. MESH will then use with-permission data to connect 10,000 qualified young retailers directly and systematically into Unilever’s digital distribution and sales operations.
These newly-trained and networked Unilever vendors will be set up with decent and reliable work as part of the Unilever network. And as members of MESH, they will be able to access frequent additional peer support, training and business opportunities. In the future, thanks to the support of CFYE, MESH members will have access to credit and financial services to continue their growth in retail with Unilever Kenya and other partners.
The CFYE grant and technical assistance will enable this innovative programme to obtain a powerful proof of concept to support 10,000+ young informal sector Kenyans to expand their horizons through private sector partnerships while staying true to our youth-centered, gender-equal principles. With the support of CFYE, we can optimise the program’s design, proceed with the implementation more quickly, and reach more young people.
Moreover, the grant will allow for the time and investment needed to develop a test case, create a pioneering integrated platform with Unilever, and consolidate MESH as a valuable new tool for young men and women and private sector companies.
The funding from CFYE will allow the development of a viable business model that prioritises social impact. In the longer term, it will enable engagement with other companies and industries beyond Unilever to solve youth unemployment at scale as we advance.