Helen Nambu, a single mother to a nine-year old autistic boy before the pandemic used to do laundry in people’s homes and hawk female undergarments for extra money.
However, with the new normal brought about the pandemic she could no longer be able to attend to her daily hustles as she could no longer afford a caregiver for her child.
Hellen was then introduced to Sokowatch, an East-African e-commerce startup, that has partnered with KCB to launch a digital voucher scheme.
Worth Sh1500 (~$14) a week, the vouchers address food shortages in Kenya caused by the pandemic and provide essential goods to vulnerable families, free-of-charge from local dukas.
“The week I received the vouchers from Sokowatch I was able to care for my son myself, after stocking up on food items that last us over a week,” said Hellen.
For many low-income families, dukas are a critical source of essential goods & food but these shops routinely run out of products and face difficulty receiving goods from suppliers.
While medium and high income households can afford to shop online, poorer families still heavily rely on informal shops as they cannot afford to purchase goods from larger retailers or do not have the means to order online.
This has resulted in severely marginalised communities with limited access to essential goods such as rice, flour and soap.
This is where Sokowatch comes in, through their network of tuk-tuks they deliver goods to dukas from their warehouses to curb this problem.
For four weeks, low-income families receive e-vouchers via SMS which can be redeemed at nearby shops with no transaction fees charged.
Once the goods are received by these families, the transaction is confirmed via an app and the shopkeeper is instantly credited digitally for the goods issued
“I found it very easy to use vouchers that I received on my phone through a text and I have been able to stock up on maize and wheat flour, which helps me balance the rest of my budget,” said Hellen.
250 families have participated in the scheme and nearly half (47.4 per cent) of households were severely food insecure before the program. This dropped to 2.7 per cent after the programme ended.
In contrast, 0 per cent were food secure at the start while 61.6% were food secure by the end of the program.
The Sokowatch project has partnered with various organisations such as Uweza Foundation that supports over 400 families in Kibera, to provide the e-vouchers.
Source : Star Media