:: Specific Design Brief
- further information
PRODUCT DESIGN KENYA
- THE PROBLEM & COMMODITIES
Poorer Kenyan people (an increasing
proportion) live for today. Their culture is to buy for today. If they buy
for tomorrow they may have to sacrifice something today. So, they buy small
quantities of the same things every day from the same place. If anything,
that tradition has intensified, and the market has gradually adapted to that
culture, so large-scale manufacturers now produce some things in small
quantities so that the poorer people will buy them.
However, a process known as de-bulking is very common. Retailers will buy in
bulk and then de-bulk into the quantities they know people in their locality
will buy. If you went to Kisumu market on a Saturday night you would find it
crowded with container lorries from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, all
preparing to sell to retailers at the Sunday Market. Business is so good
that the local authority will make between two and three million Kenyan
shillings (about 100 shillings to a £ so £20-30,000) on car park charges
every Saturday night. It is the second largest open-air market in Kenya and
the largest in Western Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda combined.
However, the process of de-bulking is inefficient. Many commodities are
de-bulked, predominantly foodstuffs, but everything is done by hand. It has
to be weighed, packaged and sealed in separate processes. Different weights
are required for different commodities. A method of weighing, packaging and
sealing commodities would improve the system, especially if it was perceived
to be classy. Pre-sealing bags would be an excellent addition for the
retailer who de-bulks.
Packaging is also a problem. I was told that in Kisumu a 2 kilo bag of
pre-packaged flour produced by one of the big national companies will sell
in the market place for 38 Kenyan shillings (about 40p). A bag of flour
produced locally without the branding and sold in an ordinary bag will cost
10sh (10p). Sometimes it may even be flour from the area that has been sold
to the national companies. However, people buy the more expensive bags
because they think they are more trustworthy. Packaging counts for a lot. An
inexpensive but attractive package would improve the reputation and sales of
In Kisumu town between 2 and 3 million shillings (£20-30,000) are spent
every day. 85% of the money goes out of Kisumu either to Nairobi or to
overseas companies. It is small wonder that life for Kisumu people becomes
increasingly difficult. They get less for the products they produce and have
to pay more for those they buy.
WHAT COMMODITIES ARE SOLD AND IN WHAT
Foodstuffs are the most common,
though some liquids can also be bought in bulk and sold in small quantities.
Amongst the foodstuff items sold in Kisumu and Migori are flour, tea, curry
powder, biscuits, sweets, spices. There is no market for preserved goods as
fresh vegetables and fruits are available all the year round. There is also
a ready availability of fresh fish from local markets, as the area is so
close to Lake Victoria.
An example of how times have changed relates to the sugar market. Five years
ago, the lowest weight packet of sugar you could buy in a local store would
be ½ kilo. In the supermarket it would be 2 kilo. Now the industry
themselves are packaging in ½ kilo bags and in the shops you can buy it in ¼
kilo or even a few spoonfuls sold in small plastic sachets. The market is
driven by price and people who only have a few shillings to spend per day
cannot afford to buy in large quantities. They will spend one shilling per
day rather than five for a week. There is therefore a market for small-scale
Similarly with liquids and some non-foodstuffs that are daily necessities.
Detergent for washing clothes can be bought in very small sachets. Cooking
fat will be bought in bulk and then sold by measure into re-used coke or
soft drink bottles. Kerosene is also sold in this way. Household soap is
bought in bars and cut into smaller pieces.
Sweets can be bought in large packets and sold singly or packets of two. One
stall holder told me he buys sweets in packs of 240 for 40Ksh. He
re-packages them in a plastic roll that costs about 3Ksh that he makes into
small sachets to contain two sweets each. He sells the sachets for 1 ksh,
making his potential profit very good. He will sell a complete pack in one
Biscuits similarly are bought in bulk and then re-packaged by hand to be
sold in smaller quantities. Spices are also sold - cloves can be bought in
packets of two or three.
JUICE & PEANUT