Slum Dwellers Design and Regulate Informal Economies
KIMSSEA Team | December 6, 2020
One of the guiding principles of KIMSSEA is to see the inherent value and potential that exists within disadvantaged populations. One of the most vulnerable and widely discussed among these populations is the roughly one out of every eight people on the planet that reside in urban slums. We choose to see slum dwellers as valuable contributors waiting to realize their potential, as does the article “Bottom-up hustling in Nairobi’s slums” written by Magdalena Chulek for the online journal “Africa is a Country”.
The article shines a spotlight on a handful of entrepreneurial thinkers living in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, which constitute 60% of the capital's total population. In the Korogocho slum, a woman named Merry participates in an upcycling business where repurposable consumer goods otherwise destined to become trash are picked from a nearby landfill and resold instead generating local jobs, providing goods to consumers, and reducing waste. While some may view this simply as a business rooted in sifting through and selling trash, we see motivated individuals who are creating new niches for business and employment in the local economic ecosystem, while simultaneously tackling sustainability challenges in their community.
According to Chulek, economic participation is an important part of the identities of residents of the Nairobi slums. She states:
“For hustlers, what is of key importance is not just making money but above all being part of a network of relationships which make it possible. Although their earnings are irregular, as they themselves say, “they exist.” Therefore, it’s important to find one’s place within the network of economic interdependencies...”
One of our key directives at KIMSSEA is to energize and accelerate the development of local economies, and stories like this epitomize the incredible drive to innovate and achieve financial success and independence that that slum dwellers and other East Africans from disadvantaged backgrounds possess. With access to valuable resources like the unique manufacturing space and mentorship network that KIMSSEA offers, local innovators like Merry will be empowered to achieve their goals and continue to contribute to their communities in even larger and more impactful ways.
Image credit to Rémy Ajenifuja on Unsplash