The development of small-scale African retailers in Kenya
Mwangi, Jacob N A
MetadataShow full item record
The purpose of this study is to identify the major problems inherent in the Africanization of distributive trad8 in general, and small-scale retail trade in particular and to assess measures formulated by the government and the manufacturers to alleviate these problems. It is based on the assumption that the government will continue to ensure that non-citizen traders are replaced by African and that this exercise will go on for at least another three years. This study is based on the hypothesis that: 1. Without government restrictive measures on the business of non-citizen traders and complementary assistance programmes designed to help small-scale African businessmen to establish themselves in distributive trade, it would have taken over twenty years to reduce the dominance of non-citizen traders. 2. That these two government measures have not been sufficiently sensitive to cultural problems inhibiting the growth and success of small-scale African shopkeepers. 3. That the assistance programmes, finance and extension services,' tailored to the needs of small-scale African shopkeepers are the only effective solution to alleviating their economic and cultural problems and promoting their development. This study consists of eleven chapters, divided into three parts. The first part examines the three major aspects of retail trade in Kenya. First, the major characteristics of small-scale African shopkeepers, including size, ownership, and general education of the African shopkeepers drawn from three different areas of Kenya--metropolitan, urban, and rural--are Slli~arized. Secondly, three important and related features of the transitional stage of development which African traders are experiencing are discussed: 1) the transition from traditional relationships characterized by dependence on family ties, low social mobility, slowness of change, and a rigid value structure to impersonal business relationships and modern practice of management is examined; 2) the transition from the colonial administration which imposed rigid restriction on African businesses .to an independent Kenya nation, where African businessmen are vigorously promoted into business, is considered; 3) the transition from dominance of non-citizens in the retail trade to rapidly increasing African participation is discussed. These three features of the transitional stage of development of the retail trade in Kenya provide a valuable background and perception to understanding both the role and functions of African shopkeepers in the economic development as well as the major problems they confront. Thirdly, the performance of the role and functions of African shopkeepers is examined in terms of how effectively they satisfy the needs of their customers, how adequately they distribute goods of their suppliers, what inputs they contribute towards economic development, and whether they realize their goals. The second part focuses on the major problems confronting African shopkeepers. This study identified and described three major problems. The first is lack of capital and credit facilities, which was believed by most African shopkeepers and also by those who attempted to assist them to be their major problem. The second problem which was considered in some details is lack of business skills and training which was found to be a more critical problem as reflected by a high default rate in payment of loans and low turnover in their businesses. The third problem was identified as cultural constraints which often inhibit growth and success of many African shopkeepers. After identifying and examining these problems in the context of a transitional society, practical solutions were presented in the third part. The third part evaluates the assistance programmes provided to African shopkeepers by suppliers of goods and services and by the government, in an attempt to alleviate their economic and cultural problems. The role of suppliers is assessed from the point of view of the needs of African shopkeepers. Their role includes willingness to assist African shopkeepers to improve their knowledge and capacity to meet the modern business management often impaired by cultural constraints. It is evident in this study that the government provides the major shares of the assistance to African shopkeepers. The useful Bess and effectiveness of the government restrictive measures aimed at diminishing non-citizen traders on one hand, and promotional programmes geared to helping African shopkeepers to establish themselves in business are analysed in some details. It is shown that the emphasis of the government efforts is aimed at stimulating, guiding, and supporting the development of African businessmen. The effectiveness and success of all the assistance programmes is shown to depend to a great extent on the combined effort and cooperation among African shopkeepers, suppliers, and the government and close coordination by those responsible. The last chapter presents the summary of conclusions and describes how the hypotheses set out at the beginning have been sufficiently proven. The government restrictive measure through the Trade Licensing Act has gotten rid of over three thousand non-citizen traders. These have been replaced mainly by African shopkeepers often with financial assistance of the government. However, their performance often is impaired by lack of training. It was shown that extension service on the business premises was the most practical way of helping African shopkeepers to overcome their problems.