Citi's Volunteer Africa Program Returns to Kenya

April 08, 2019
Manolo Falcó, Global Co-Head of BCMA

This week, a team of 24 junior bankers from around the world will begin working with 16 entrepreneurs in Nakuru and Eldoret in Kenya as part of Citi's Volunteer Africa program, in partnership with Balloon Ventures, a U.K.-based social enterprise and nonprofit with offices in Kenya, Uganda and Ghana. The Citi volunteers will bring their experience and skills to help local entrepreneurs grow their businesses, create jobs and build livelihoods in disadvantaged communities.

This is the fourth year of Volunteer Africa, and we are excited to be returning to Kenya, where the program first started in 2016. Citi is proud to have been operating in Kenya since 1974, serving Corporate and Institutional clients. Volunteer Africa demonstrates Citi's ongoing commitment to the country, driving economic growth at the community level. Kenya is also one of Sub-Saharan Africa's fastest-growing economies. It boasts a youthful population, improving infrastructure, dynamic private sector and rich natural resources, but it also faces the systemic challenges of poverty and inequality. With 75% of businesses working in the informal sector, there is great scope for entrepreneurial Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) to provide people with good jobs, decent work and an opportunity to drive inclusive economic growth.

Having Citi's junior talent working alongside high-potential entrepreneurs is a powerful combination. Over the next four and a half weeks, volunteers will provide intensive support to entrepreneurs by helping them to identify business priorities, innovate, transfer learning and empower them to scale their businesses. They will also work with the entrepreneurs to build their business plans and pitch for funds from Citi (in the form of low-interest loans administered by Balloon Ventures) to support future growth plans.

Ultimately, the program will help entrepreneurs find their own pathways to progress while enabling our junior bankers to develop their mentoring and business skills, build knowledge of developing economies and establish strong networks with colleagues across the firm.

We know that Volunteer Africa is helping us to achieve these objectives. Balloon Ventures has undertaken research on the cohort of entrepreneurs and volunteers who participated in Volunteer Africa, which can be read here.

Paul is one entrepreneur we supported in Kenya in 2016. He makes sugar cane juice. When we met him, he owned a locally-made machine to crush raw sugar cane and one staff member who sold his juice from a small shop off the main street of his town of Nakuru. Together with Citi volunteers, Paul prioritized several growth opportunities, including a new sugar cane press and moving to a bigger and more accessible shop. Since then, he has imported two food grade machines from Asia that have enabled him to increase sugar cane juice production by 1000%. He now has two outlets staffed by a team of five selling his juice on the streets of Nakuru every day, and his revenue has grown eight times since he participated in the program.

On average, nine months after completing the program, entrepreneurs experienced a 50% increase in income and a 47.5% increase in profit. The Balloon Ventures survey also shows that our employees increased their cross-cultural understanding and enhanced their ability to manage and adapt to change, while building resilience and flexibility.

We look forward to monitoring the impact of this year's program. Please join us in wishing our volunteers an exciting and impactful program in Kenya. You can follow their progress on social media by searching for #CitiVolunteers and #VolunteerAfrica.

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