Scaling the ladder with Value Chain Manager Justin Makori

30 Jan 2015

Imagine you’re a Hand in Hand entrepreneur. You’ve gone through the training, launched your own business and established yourself in the community. Now you’re ready to take the next step and scale up, but you’re not sure how to access bigger markets. Enter Justin Makori (pictured, left), Hand in Hand Eastern Africa’s Value Chain Manager, who since March of last year has helped thousands of entrepreneurs with that vital last piece of the Hand in Hand model: growth.

We spoke to Justin about his work with grassroots entrepreneurs, and why market linkages are important.

Can you explain what market linkages are? How do they work?

Market linkages are the channels through which transactions occur, starting the moment a product is produced and ending when it’s consumed. Ultimately, they’re about connecting the producer and the consumer.

Of course, when and where they occur depends on a number of factors: what the product is, where it exists along the value chain and more. Sometimes the goal is to connect entrepreneurs with processors. Other times it means teaching them about door-to-door delivery.

What kinds of businesses are best suited to market linkages?

Any business can and must fit the market linkage model: no consumers, no income. That said, the majority of Hand in Hand Eastern Africa members are farmers – the mainstay of the Kenyan economy – so lots of my work is in agriculture.

How many members has Hand in Hand Eastern Africa helped with market linkages?

So far the number of cases stands at 8,117. Most occur on a small scale, but all help members generate income and, in turn, alleviate poverty.

Any success stories you’re particularly proud of?

Linking entrepreneurs with big companies is something we’re doing more of, especially as we’ve begun to sensitise members on tackling two key issues: sustainable quantities and high-quality products. In Thika, we’ve been able to link 101 avocado growers – that’s six groups – with Kakuzi Ltd., an agricultural cultivation and manufacture company listed on both the Nairobi Securities Exchange and London Stock Exchange. Most of those members put the resulting profits into enterprises ranging from farming to hotel businesses. We’ve also had similar successes with banana produces in Gatanga, poultry in Machakos and chick hatching in Homabay. The future looks bright.