Entrepreneurship as prevention from HIV

There is nothing you will gain from not working hard. If you want to be successful, then you have to work hard and whilst at it…work smart!” This advice is from Simon Komba, Chairperson of a self-help youth group whose members went from jobless men, to promising entrepreneurs.

Wachapakazi Group was established in December 2013 as a self-help group from Magorofani, Forest Ward in Mbeya City. The ten men who are members of the group were brought together by KIHUMBE, a local NGO in Mbeya implementing a program on HIV Prevention. The program is funded by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), through the Walter Reed.

Initially, the group was a gathering of some youths who had small businesses and needed a push in order to expand more, and others who did not have anything to do. The aim was to bring them together so that they could discuss about issues concerning HIV prevention, as well as entrepreneurial skills.

We are very grateful for KIHUMBE who brought us together as youths and encouraged us into forming this group. Some of us have gone through life and failed, but history has shown that every successful business leader did fail at some point before dusting off the failure to embrace success,” says Komba, the group’s leader.

After the establishment of the group, an entrepreneurial training was conducted by KIHUMBE who invited facilitators from SIDO and the Agricultural Research Institute (ARI), where the members were trained on how to engage as youth and be able to perform different entrepreneurial activities.

In March 2014, members of the Wachapakazi Group conducted a meeting and agreed on making contributions so as to enable them to get loans to start up and expand their businesses. The move led to the youth starting up their own businesses, while those who already owned one were able to add to their capital and expand.

David Machese and Uswege Ephraim are members who already had businesses before, but needed help in order to survive. While David has a carpentry business, Uswege owns a small shop where he sells motor vehicle spare parts. The two young men benefited by taking small loans in order to expand, and they admit that the loans have helped them a lot.

I have had this business for a while now, but as a carpenter I did not have the capital to buy my own timber. As a result, customers used to come to me with their own timber and I only ended up making what they wanted. This did not bring me any profit, and I needed money to be able to buy my own wood,”explains David.

He has already taken a loan three times, each time taking 50,000 shillings which has helped him buy his own timber and get the profit that he always wanted. Without the group, he knows that this would have been impossible.

imilarly, Uswege shares his own story of his spare parts shop, whereby although he used to sell a bit, he did not have the much needed capital that would have enabled him to purchase the more profit-making spare parts. But after he took a loan three times worth 50,000 shillings each, he was able to add to his capital and purchase the spare parts that he desired.

Our strength lies in our unshakeable unity and our realization of the immense potential that a group has to offer when compared with an individual,” says the group leader, adding that what they learn during their group meetings not only encourages them to make more money, but also reminds them as youth that HIV/AIDS is real, and they have the responsibility to make sure that they use preventive measures in order to stop the spread of the virus.