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Citizens of the Global Village Think About the Year Ahead : KENYA

January 01, 1991|Times correspondents asked a variety of ordinary citizens in different countries about their hopes and fears for 1991. Their answers ranged from the blatantly political to the guardedly personal.

Ezra Mbogori, project director in Nairobi for the independent Undugu Society, which provides welfare services for street children and support for such "informal sector" workers as the street hawkers and handymen who serve Kenya's slum dwellers.

"There's very little I see positive for the year ahead. In the local situation, political events and the harassment the informal sector's gone through in the last few months have us extremely worried. . . .

"The drop in the standard of living has been visible everywhere in the last year. You can see it in the increase in crime. I think that will continue in 1991, because we haven't gotten creative enough in government. There's a strange inertia that will have to change. The will to develop is being lost.

"Driving out \o7 jua kali \f7 (informal workers) from the city center is the antithesis of official government policy. There are showcase attempts to support some \o7 jua kali \f7 projects, but the moment the chance comes, these people get evicted.

"If it's allowed to thrive, the informal sector could address a big proportion of our unemployment problem. The standard projections say the labor market is growing by 250,000 new entrants every year, while the formal sector is creating 50,000 jobs--maximum--a year. Meanwhile, the cost of creating a job in a formal trade is maybe ($20,000). In the informal sector, it's one-tenth of that.

"In the last 1 1/2 years we've given out 120 loans to start up small businesses, mostly to people starting from scratch. More than 60% has been repaid. In the developed world, three-quarters of all new businesses survive; here it's 50% to 60%. To me, that spells hope."

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