Minani Anceti will be 60 years old soon. He is a Burundian refugee living in Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana County, Northern Kenya together with his wife and five children.
They fled the civil war in Burundi in 2010, and his two youngest children were actually born here in Kakuma; house block 18, where they live together with a thousand people of mixed nationalities.
He is an energetic man who runs a food kiosk in the camp, with his wife and elder son Kayukule. Illiterate himself, he has sent his youngest children to a paid academy in Kakuma town, even though there is free education available at the camp. Actually, he pays a third of their total income on the academy fees, because he is convinced that the English language will widen their horizons and open doors for them in life.
A day in his life
At 5:00am Anceti wakes up to boil water to prepare mandazi (traditional buns). His wife Muka has boiled dry maize and beans overnight so they are ready for sale at the food kiosk.
By 5:30am he arrives at his shop and starts preparing breakfast for early customers. His son Kavakule drops his two siblings Nilela 15 and Claude 13 at the Echami Academy in Kakuma town.
Anceti sadly laments that Kayakule dropped out of school due to an inability to perform in class. He explains that his son had serious health issues as a baby and he wonders if this could be the cause. However, Kayakule is a great help in his father’s business, and he also drops lunch off for his siblings every school day.
Brightening up his business
Anceti lives a simple life with his family. He has very little possessions except for a motorbike which he bought through a loan. And he recently invested in an Aziri radio, satellite TV, 4 lights, a torch and phone charging system. His face lights up when he explains that he has been getting more customers ever since he installed the TV in his food kiosk. In the evenings they flock to his little eating place to catch up on news and entertainment. His face however, darkens a little as he narrates a challenge he faces, “I could make more money by working a few more hours in the evening but sometimes I have to close earlier to avoid conflicts with some youths from the host community who eat and refuse to pay for their meal. But generally the lights and the TV have impacted my business and life positively". He laughs, “Now I can wake up, switch the light on and start working. I used to struggle sometimes in the pitch darkness when my torch battery ran out in the middle of preparing food.”
SNV Market Based Energy Access project
Anceti’s earnings have greatly improved, allowing him to pay his wholesale credit without a problem. This is an example of the ripple effect that one improvement like clean electricity can have on the refugees in Kakuma. The SNV Market Based Energy project promotes sustainable market based energy access for cooking and lighting by supporting clean energy entrepreneurs in the camp and host community.
Now, “I live in debt. I borrow baking flour and other foodstuff from a Somali wholesaler at the market a few blocks away. This is quite expensive.” He suspects that his illiteracy hinders him from accessing a loan of, say a thousand dollar, to run his business without having to buy everything on credit. With a loan he could expand his business. “Once I pay it back, I would be debt free,” he explains. Then he would like to open a wholesale shop in the camp, like he used to have back in Burundi.
And yes, ultimately he dreams of the day that peace in Burundi will allow them to move back home.