Despite decades of official development assistance, the lives of ordinary Africans have failed to improve substantially since African nations achieved independence. Instead, pressures of overpopulation, corruption, soil exhaustion and a stagnant economy have seen living standards drop, for the urban poor in particular.
We believe real development that will change the lives of individuals and families will come from business. Stable employment and reliable living wages allow StashBelt employees to feed their families, put their kids through school, and care for the elderly and infirm in their ancestral villages.
We want to pay forward on our success by helping launch more sustainable African businesses. Due to a lack of investment capital, thousands of African businesses never leave the drawing board, and this is what we intend to change.
To boost employment – which is over 40 per cent in Kenya – 10 per cent of all profits from StashBelt sales will be diverted to the StashBelt Foundation. These funds will be channelled towards worthy business startups that stand to make a positive impact on the community.
Our first project: The Kibera Gamers' Cafe
Nairobi's Kibera Slum, its fair to say, is squarely on the wrong side of the digital divide.
Located about five kilometers from the city centre, Kibera is among the largest slums in Africa if not the world, with a population estimated to be over one million. Ramshackle homes are built out of corrugated tin, scraps of wood, plastic sheets and whatever else may be scrounged up. Open sewers run through the streets, and in some places HIV/AIDS infection rates are well above 50 per cent.
In a place where the vast majority of people scrape by on a dollar a day, access to computer technology and the internet are minimal, especially for children.
With this in mind, 28-year-old slum-dweller Vitalis “Diddy” Odhiambo approached the StashBelt Foundation with a plan. He proposed starting an internet/gaming cafe aimed at ghetto kids, with the goal of offering them an opportunity to learn basic computer literacy skills while having fun. Also, he reckoned, creating a safe and fun place to hang out would keep them from veering into a life of gangs and crimes, a fate that sadly awaits many slum children.
In October 2011, Stash Team Member Jeff paid Diddy a visit in Kibera to scope out locations and refine his business plan. They toured Kibera and crunched numbers to figure out how much money was needed to get the project off the ground.
In January 2012, the Kibera Gamers' Cafe opened its doors for the first time, and has since become a vibrant community centre for local kids. Diddy started off by investing in two Playstations and FIFA soccer, the favourite local game. The kids are charged a very affordable fee (i.e. pennies) and peak hours are after school, after supper and on weekends.
Diddy is now saving up his profits, and plans to buy computers and more gaming systems. Besides helping kids stay off the streets, this project has also created a sustainable job for Diddy, who has transformed himself from a casual car washer to a respected local entrepreneur.
This project was made possible in part by a $500 donation from an angel investor in Ottawa, Canada. He was looking for a high-impact investment he could make at Christmastime, and wanted to ensure his money wasn't eaten up by high overhead, as is often the case with big charities. He said his children were really proud to see pictures of the kids his family helped a half a world away =)