Hand in Hand a ‘centre of excellence’, says review

Hand in Hand Eastern Africa is a “centre of excellence in training and transforming of Self-Help Groups”.

That’s according to an independent review published by the Abymas Development Practices Centre, a Zimbabwe-based evaluation agency, and funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)/the Swedish Embassy in Nairobi.

The review comes off the back of a two-year, SEK 20 million (US$ 2.3 million) program in Kenya, which concluded in March and aimed to achieve three broad objectives:

  • To provide business training and marketing support to rural entrepreneurs, resulting in 14,000 jobs.
  • To provide Self-Help Group members with access to microfinance.
  • To promote green jobs and environmental resilience in partnership with the Government of Kenya’s Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP).

Here’s what it found.

Business training and enterprise development

The effect of the project in reducing the number of people living below Ksh 3,000 (US $30) has been phenomenal,” concludes the review.

The result was achieved as members moved from subsistence farming into different agricultural value chains such as dairy, while others moved into retail, services, arts and crafts and more.

Retail and services were the two most lucrative types of enterprise, resulting in average monthly sales of Ksh 21,754 (US $217) and Ksh 19,156 (US $191) respectively.

The Hand in Hand Eastern Africa model of enterprise development and job creation is unique”, the report concludes, “in that it creates a strong foundation for target groups to immediately use knowledge and skills gained to identify enterprise opportunities with the reach of individual entrepreneurs before even receiving external financing.”

By the numbers

food infographic

67% of members were engaged farming at the outset of the project. Two years later, that number was down to 48%


At the same time, the proportion of members working in retail and services rose from 7% to 23%


56% of members earned less than Ksh 3,000 (US $30) per month at the outset of the project. By the time it concluded, that number had decreased to only 15%

info white families lifted w 272

At the same time, the proportion of members earning Ksh 10,000 (US $100) or more per month jumped from 9% to 27%

Gender, social inclusion and culture


Hand in Hand contributed “significantly to reducing gender inequality in the social and economic life of rural communities in all the targeted geographical areas,” says the report.

Before the project, “most women met during field work pointed out that their life was miserable and hopeless… as they were just working on isolated home activities for survival.” Today, “women have shown confidence in every possible sector,” resulting in “great household resilience, which changes the employment and income dynamics within the household within a very short time.”

Men’s attitudes also changed, “becoming more supportive of women’s participation in SHG activities and viewing women as equal partners in the decision-making process.”

Environmental resilience and green business

Members were “instrumental in championing key environmental initiatives within their households and communities” despite facing “several challenges”, said the report.

Barriers to success included entrenched attitudes and the cost of environmentally friendly technologies. But initiatives including “tree nurseries… stoves for energy saving, waste recycled products in peri-urban areas, water management and conservation, improved sanitation and use of organic manure” proved popular nonetheless, helping members build resilient, sustainable enterprises.

More intensive training and deeper linkages with similar projects were recommended to improve the program.

Access to microfinance

Hundreds of members borrowed microloans from Hand in Hand Eastern Africa’s Enterprise Incubation Fund (EIF) to help grow their businesses. So far, so good.

At the end of the lending cycle, however, relatively few showed interest in climbing the finance ladder to receive higher interest loans from bigger, more formal lenders – one of the fund’s chief goals. That could spell trouble when the project concludes.

The report suggests two possible solutions.

  • Work more closely with microfinance institutions and government agencies to ease members’ climb up the microfinance ladder.
  • Provide two distinct types of loans: one for start-ups, another for businesses able to demonstrate market-driven growth. “This will ensure those entrepreneurs that are not growing are churned out at a pre-determined exit point within the loan cycle. At that point they will have acquired entrepreneurship skills, knowledge and experience and will have developed strong mutual support systems (internal savings) that can propel them into the future,” says the report.

Percy Barnevik on The Social Enterprise Podcast

Hand in Hand Co-founder and Honorary Chair Percy Barnevik appeared recently on The Social Enterprise Podcast, presented by Rupert Scofield, president of Microfinancial Institution FINCA and author of ‘The Social Entrepreneur’s Handbook’.

Here’s a description from the Social Enterprise Podcast website:

“On this special episode of the Social Enterprise Podcast, Rupert is joined by businessman and philanthropist Percy Barnevik. After a successful career in business – chairing companies including ABB, Sandvik, Skanska, Investor AB, and AstraZeneca – Percy founded non-profit organisation Hand in Hand International, inspired to help street children in India. Having worked in 14 countries, the organisation provides grassroots entrepreneurs in some of the poorest places in the world with the skills to start their own businesses. Percy reveals his motivations, some of the challenges, and how business informed his approach to charity.”

Listen to the podcast here

Hand in Hand teams up with the IKEA Foundation on youth, climate change

Hand in Hand and the IKEA Foundation are teaming up to help thousands of women and young people in rural Kenya work towards a brighter, more environmentally friendly future.

Launched in April with a US $3.6 million grant from the IKEA Foundation, the project will help 43,200 impoverished mothers and young people in Kenya thrive as eco-entrepreneurs, even while inspiring 4,800 future business leaders at Entrepreneurship Clubs in schools. For thousands of children, the results will be transformative: full stomachs, inquiring minds and a world full of potential.

The grant is among the IKEA Foundation’s first after it announced last year it would dedicate €1 billion (US $1.14 billion) to fighting climate change.

“We believe children have better futures when their families earn sustainable incomes, which is why we are supporting Hand in Hand with a US $3.6 million grant,” said Jonathan Spampinato, Head of Communications at IKEA Foundation. “Our partnership with Hand in Hand will help thousands of women and young people in Kenya create jobs and small businesses that can stand up to climate change. We are really excited to launch this partnership and begin our work together!”

                           ikea foundation logo 2                hand in hand_logo_international ikea story

Standing up to climate change

Look at poverty differently and you’ll see entrepreneurs, full of energy and ideas. Hand in Hand’s helps harness their potential. They find a way up and out of poverty, boosted by our comprehensive job creation model.

Savings groups and business training in areas such as bookkeeping and marketing aren’t rare. Nor, for that matter, is microfinance. But where other organizations focus on one or two of these elements, Hand in Hand combines all three – then adds a fourth by connecting entrepreneurs to larger markets and value chains.

Our partnership with the IKEA Foundation goes one step further, adding another crucial element: resilience to climate change. That means creating thousands of self-sustaining green businesses in areas like water purification, charcoal briquette production and upcycling. It also means training thousands more agricultural entrepreneurs to farm organically, and to use techniques including crop diversification, irrigation, planting trees to reduce soil erosion and more.

“Impoverished rural communities are on the front lines of climate change,” said Hand in Hand Eastern Africa CEO Pauline Ngari. “Now more than ever, adaptation and mitigation are absolutely crucial. We thank the IKEA Foundation for playing their part, and enabling us to play ours.”

Entrepreneurship Clubs

ikea entrepreneurship club

Students in the Entrepreneurship Club at Wangu Primary School, Nairobi.

Empowering mothers to work their way out of poverty is a prerequisite to achieving the first Sustainable Development Goal, to ‘end poverty in all its forms everywhere’. But it raises an important question: if our members received entrepreneurship education earlier in life, would they be struggling as much to begin with?

Thanks to Hand in Hand’s Entrepreneurship Clubs, we’ll soon find out. The after-school clubs teach students aged 10 to 16 the basics of business, culminating in income-generating group projects used to offset participants’ school fees. In a country where high school graduates vastly outnumber available jobs, and where 80 percent of unemployed people are between the ages of 15 and 34, promoting entrepreneurship at school must be part of the solution.

By the numbers


43,200 jobs created

info entrepreneurship club

4,800 students in Entrepreneurship Clubs


US $3.6 million donated by the IKEA Foundation

Hand in Hand exceeds targets in Rwanda

Hand in Hand Eastern Africa is “contributing greatly to women’s economic empowerment” in Rwanda, according to a new independent report. Jobs targets in the country have also been vastly exceeded.

Published by independent evaluator DRIS, Bureau d’études et de conseil, the report lends weight to Hand in Hand’s aim, outlined in its 2013-2015 Strategic Plan, to “enter into strategic partnerships in new countries in order to scale up job creation more quickly.”

“Three years ago, we realized that partnering with local NGOs was the quickest, most effective and most sustainable way to reach our goal of creating 10 million jobs,” said Hand in Hand International CEO Josefine Lindänge. “Our experience in Rwanda will help open the door for more partnerships and further expansion in the years to come.”

Hand in Hand launched in Rwanda in 2012. Working with local partner CARE Rwanda, an NGO with years of experience mobilizing Self-Help Groups in the country, the plan was to create 80,000 jobs by March 2015. Encouraged by stronger-than-expected results, the program was extended for a year. As of September 2015 – a full seven months before the program’s conclusion – some 113,650 jobs had been created.

Factors explaining the program’s success, says the report, include “solid partnerships with local NGOs, an effective supportive supervision system, an effective monitoring system, the complementarity between [CARE] and [Hand in Hand] methodologies and an enabling project environment.”

Other key findings include:

  • “The analysis of results show that the most VSLG members were able to hire at least one person and that they are paying their employees in money (98.6%). In the Baseline Study, only 11% of VSLG members reported having hired an employee in the last 12 months.”
  • The proportion of group members hiring three, four and five employees is significantly higher (40 percent) among new members (recruited by Hand in Hand) than among previously existing members (27.7 percent).
  • Surprisingly, the second highest percentage (17.4 percent) for hiring corresponds to employing six people or more.
  • The results show that access to education (98.8 percent) and health insurance (97 percent) is significantly high among group members.
  • “Internal loans are being used for consumption and household assets, but also at a remarkable level for business development.”

Read the full report here


Businesses started: 78,780

Target: 56,000

india jobs icon

Jobs created: 113,662

Target: 80,000

Infographic: Lives improved: 544,470 Every job we help create in Southern Africa benefits an average six family members – young, old and everywhere in between

Lives improved: 393,900

Target: 280,000


Hand in Hand teams up with Safaricom in Kenya

Hand in Hand Eastern Africa is joining forces with Safaricom, Kenya’s leading telecommunications company, to create 7,000 jobs.

Announced on August 12, the Safaricom Foundation’s Key 2 Empowerment fund invites members of Hand in Hand Self-Help Groups to apply for microloans worth up to 30,000 KES (US $290). Only members who have completed their training will be eligible to apply.

“Many young people who wish to start small and medium enterprises lack the capital to do so, and unfortunately, financial institutions classify them as high-risk borrowers,” said Joseph Ogutu, Safaricom Foundation Chairman, during the launch of the fund.

Members of Junior Achievement Kenya, an NGO that provides business and skills training to youth aged 18 to 24, are also eligible to apply.

Safaricom, founded in 1997, is Kenya’s largest mobile network operator. The company is 40 percent owned by the UK’s Vodafone Group Plc.

By the numbers

info-white-business5,000 enterprises

info-white-woman-train-jobs7,000 jobs

info-white-best-creditUp to 30,000 KES (US $290) per loan

In the press

Members of Kenya’s national press were on hand to cover the launch.

K24 TV – ‘Safaricom injects Sh14M seed capital for young entrepreneurs’

The Star – ‘Safaricom launches revolving fund for young entrepreneurs

Standard – ‘Safaricom Foundation launches fund for “high-risk entrepreneurs” in Kenya

For more information about Hand in Hand Eastern Africa’s partnership with Safaricom, please email Program Manager Agnes Svensson.

Hand in Hand joins forces with Kiva to fight poverty in Kenya

For 10 years and running, Hand in Hand has harnessed the skills of millions of would-be entrepreneurs to fight poverty with jobs. Kiva, established in 2005, have been connecting entrepreneurs with lenders for almost as long. So when Hand in Hand Eastern Africa teamed up with the crowdfunding pioneers to connect rural Kenyans to life-changing microloans, it’s no wonder our entrepreneurs were up to the task.

Mercy, 38, is one of them. Along with the rest of her Ushirika Self-Help Group, the mother of two is seeking US $575 to purchase stock for her growing clothing shop. The group has raised US $100 so far – just a fraction of the $73,475 our entrepreneurs have raised from 550 lenders since July.

To meet more Hand in Hand entrepreneurs and find how you can lend, visit our page on the Kiva website.

Visit our page on Kiva.org


Rising to the saving challenge

Akiba Nyumbani (‘home savings’) campaign closes in Kenya

For the third year running, Hand in Hand Eastern Africa ran the Akiba Nyumbani (‘home savings’) campaign to raise the awareness of the importance of saving amongst the poorest people in Kenyan society.

In Kenya just 42% of the population have a bank account with a formal financial institution (compared to 97% in the UK). However, Hand in Hand Eastern Africa is keen to demonstrate that even the most marginalized in society, excluded from formal financial institutions and living on just a few dollars a day can save a little money and that this can be the first step on the ladder out of poverty.

Organized into informal savings groups, all 2014 campaign entrants in Akiba Nyumbani were given a sealed ‘piggy bank’ and encouraged by Hand in Hand Eastern Africa trainers to save regularly. The best savers were rewarded in a high profile awards ceremony in Nairobi in September 2014.

The 2014 Akiba Nyumbani campaign saw entrants save an average KES 4,000 (USD 45) in total over six months. This is a significant achievement for people living in communities where the majority (62%) support entire families on less than KES 5,000 per month (USD 60), 50% must walk to the local well or river to get water and 84% use fire wood as source of cooking fuel.

Philomena Nduku Mutuku, a 57-years old shop owner, who was the Hand In Hand Eastern Africa's best saver.

Philomena Nduku Mutuku | Shop Owner | Matuu, Kenya

Last year’s best saver, Philomena Nduku Mutuku was crowned champion yet again this year. The 68 year-old shop-owner, who used to earn just KES 500 (US$ 6) a week fetching water from the local well for her wealthier neighbors, said: “I did not go to school, but I am a fast learner: thanks to the Hand in Hand training, I can now control what I spend. So, I would estimate what I really needed every week and challenge myself to save the rest”.

Encouraged to save just a little each week, last year Philomena eventually had enough to invest in the necessary stock for a small shop – the only one in a 15km radius from her village. With demand in the shop outstripping her produce supply, this  year the  indefatigable Philomena hired three staff to work on her farm to increase supply.

As a direct result of saving, Philomena has moved on from carrying water to become an independent business-woman who today earns some KES 1,000 (US$ 12) a day.

“Our Akiba Nyumbani campaign demonstrates the power of regular saving to Kenyans living in extreme poverty”
Pauline Ngari, CEO Hand in Hand Eastern Africa

The routine and discipline of regular saving is the first step of the Hand in Hand business creation model. The model was introduced into Kenya in 2010 to empower the country’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged – often women – to work their way out of poverty by running their own businesses.


Hand in Hand India’s Dr Sankar shares financial inclusion expertise

Dr Kalpana Sankar, CEO Hand In Hand India, portrait picture.

Dr Kalpana Sankar | CEO Hand In Hand India

The CEO of Hand in Hand India, Dr Kalpana Sankar, was invited to speak at the launch of Papua New Guinea’s Centre for Excellence in Financial Inclusion (CEFI) on 24 April. The event was inaugurated by the country’s Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill.

Dr Sankar drew on Hand in Hand India’s ten years’ experience in financial inclusion and micro-credit in India and beyond.

In the Hand in Hand model for fighting poverty, entrepreneurial business training dovetails financial inclusion. Over the past ten years, US$183m of business start-up loans have been extended to some of India’s most disadvantaged rural women, enabling them to set up and expand 915,000 businesses. This approach for job and business creation has now been successfully adapted in six other countries in Asia (Afghanistan) and sub-Saharan Africa (Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe).

CEFI is co-financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the Government of of Papua New Guinea and will drive the national strategy for financial inclusion.

Read more about HiH India’s results in financial inclusion and microcredit on the Hand in Hand India website.

Launching Enterprise Incubation Fund

Social impact fund launched to directly benefit 100,000 Kenyan women micro-entrepreneurs

On July 10, business leader turned philanthropist Percy Barnevik launched an impact-first social investment fund from NGO Hand in Hand International at the Partners for Global Impact (PGI)® conference in Lugano.

Percy Barnevik and keynote speaker Sir Ronald Cohen (Chairman of Big Society Capital), together with conference partner INSEAD, challenged the 200 philanthropists, social entrepreneurs and development practitioners at the conference to find innovative solutions to some of the world’s most protracted social problems.

As a businessman, I recognise good returns when I see them,” Percy Barnevik

Benedetta Kalondu, basket maker in Tala, Kenya, carrying baskets.

Benedetta Kalondu | Bag maker | Tala, Kenya

Leading by example, Percy Barnevik, founder and chairman of Hand in Hand International, launched the Enterprise Incubation Fund (EIF) for Kenya. The aim of the EIF is to enable Kenyans living at the bottom of the pyramid to access much-needed loans to start their own micro-businesses and work their way out of poverty. The presentation of the fund met with great interest amongst the delegates and there are already discussions underway regarding investments.

Hand in Hand is raising Kenyan Shilling (KES) 250 million (US$ 3m) in loan capital for the EIF. A US$ 100,000 equivalent investment in the fund supports the creation of 11,500 jobs, helping to lift over 57,000 adults and children out of poverty. The fund pays a fixed 2% annual interest in KES over five years.

The fund is targeting micro-entrepreneurs who typically live on less than US$ 15 a week and often fail to be reached by classic microfinance. Most of these are women. Each loan recipient will be given continuous business mentoring – ranging from financial literacy to basic marketing advice – by Hand in Hand Eastern Africa.

Percy Barnevik, Founder and Chairman of Hand In Hand, portrait photo.

Percy Barnevik | Founder and Chairman of Hand In Hand

Blending micro-credit and business mentoring has already proved to be a success outside of Kenya: Hand in Hand has helped to create 976,000 sustainable micro-businesses and over 1.4 million jobs. The bulk of these results have been achieved by Hand in Hand India which, since 2006, has facilitated access to over US$ 189m of credit for micro-entrepreneurs, with loan repayment rates of 99%.

Percy Barnevik said: “As a business-man, I recognise good returns when I see them. The EIF looks like one of the best philanthropic buys in international development available today. We only extend loans to those who have developed a viable plan for a micro-business with our support and this ensures very high repayment rates. Philanthropists investing in the EIF can be safe in the knowledge that their money is used productively to create long-lasting businesses and jobs.”

Saving is not a luxury

Hand in Hand Eastern Africa’s CEO, Pauline Ngari: Why saving is the first step on the ladder out of poverty

When World Savings Day was first launched in 1924 the aim was to encourage people to put their savings in a formal bank account rather than ‘under the mattress’ so that they could manage and save their money efficiently.

Today, as we celebrate the 79th World Savings Day, half the world’s population, some 2.5 billion adults, still do not have a bank account. Most of those people live in poor, rural areas in developing countries. For instance, here in my native Kenya, just 42% of the population has a bank account – compared to 97% in the UK.

Passport photo of the CEO of Hand in Hand Eastern Africa, Pauline Ngari

Pauline Ngari | CEO | Hand In Hand Eastern Africa

Why should this matter? If you are unbanked, it is that much harder to manage your money and that means you are not saving. In the absence of insurance and formal social safety mechanisms, savings are what see families through economic hardship. As they often cannot access formal credit, savings also provide the poor seed capital to start a business or the finance to expand one.

However, if you are poor, living at the margins of society and excluded from financial institutions, can you really save? Do you have any ‘spare’ money? And if you do, can you save enough to make a difference?

We often assume the answer is ‘No’, but I speak from personal experience when I say that the answer to these questions is emphatically ‘Yes’.

I was born into a poor farming family in central Kenya. After school I helped to manage the family household as my mother tried to run a village shop. When my mother’s shop failed, life became much harder for us all.

However, that failure is exactly why I set up Hand in Hand’s operations in Kenya in 2010. My mother had an entrepreneurial spirit but she lacked any form of business training. At Hand in Hand , we have developed a business creation model to enable people to start and run their own enterprise, increase their income and climb out of poverty.

And we know it works; globally, some 1.5 million people living in poverty in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have – with our support – saved enough to set up and run over one million businesses.

First we create community groups, mainly women, who support each other, save together and learn together. Members learn to manage money – how to save as well as how to borrow and repay a loan. Here in Kenya – where the national saving rate is only half of the average for all low-income countries – we are running savings campaigns during which our members manage to save an average of 3,500 Kenyan Shillings over six months – a significant achievement when 62% of them support entire families on less than KES 5,000 per month (US$ 60).

Then we train the group members to discover and develop small businesses that make use of their skills and potential.

Next, if needed, we provide access to micro loans and finance. Such is the success of our business creation model and the support across the group that 99% of these micro loans are paid back.

Finally we help turn our members’ ideas into a larger commercial reality, take them to market and achieve sustainable growth, which in turn benefits their families and communities.

Take Philomena Nduku Mutuku, a 67 year-old shop-owner who used to earn just KES 500 (US$ 6) a week fetching water from the local well for her wealthier neighbours: “I did not go to school, but I am a fast learner: thanks to the Hand in Hand training, I can now control what I spend. So, I would estimate what I really needed every week and challenge myself to save the rest”.

Encouraged to save just a little each week, Philomena eventually had enough to invest in the necessary stock for a small shop – the only one in a 15km radius from her village.

As a direct result of saving, Philomena has moved on from carrying water to become an independent business-woman who today earns some KES 1,000 (US$ 12) a day.

And that is the power of saving.

Originally published on Pauline Ngari’s Huffington Post blog

Hand in Hand Afghanistan expanding with grant from EU

Now is a crucial time for Afghanistan.

Already, the country is in the process of electing its first new president after 12 years under Hamid Karzai. By the end of the year, with the whole world watching, that president will oversee the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force, inheriting main responsibility for the country’s security for the first time in just as long.

Despite uncertainty over Afghanistan’s future – or indeed because of it – Hand in Hand is committed to remaining in the country. In fact, we’re expanding our reach in Afghanistan thanks to a game-changing US $1.16 million (€840 K) grant from the European Union. Launched in February 2014, the deal marks a series of milestones for Hand in Hand:

  • Our first grant from the European Union.
  • Our first time working in Samangan Province, bordering Hand in Hand Afghanistan’s most developed operation in the province of Balkh. Samangan offers relatively stable security, support from local stakeholders and, given the absence of similar programs in the region, the opportunity to make a transformative impact.

We’re also introducing a number of upgrades adapted to suit Afghan conditions:

  • Literacy and numeracy training. Countrywide, only 7 percent of rural women are literate.
  • Vocational training and toolkits for in-demand skills such as beekeeping, silkworm rearing and motorcycle repair. Farming productivity in Afghanistan has fallen by half during 30 years of near-continuous war.
  • Shari’a-friendly microfinance. Profitable lending is prohibited by Islamic law, causing most microfinance institutions to avoid Afghanistan. To help plug the gap we’re bringing our successful Enterprise Incubation Fund to the country.
Habiba weaving a carpet.

Habiba | Carpet Weaving | Kaldar District, Afghanistan

As always, the need to boost women’s economic empowerment remains urgent – particularly in a country where 60 to 80 percent of marriages are forced and violence against women is on the rise. That’s why we’re increasing our female participation rate to 70 percent –significantly higher than both the national female labor participation rate, 16 percent, and the target of 35 percent set by the Afghan government for aid programs. (We target 30 percent men as a means to build trust and, ultimately, work with women.)

Estimated results at the end of the project

Blue-Business-So-Far for news story

5,400 small businesses will have been created


8,100 sustainable jobs will have been generated


Some 56,700 family members will have benefited