Business and Finance
10 Minutes with…Mrs Perez Ochieng
How did you start SACOMA and why?
To respond to the lack of culturally appropriate services run by people who were experiencing similar problems such unemployment, under-employment, lack of awareness of available services or lack of knowledge of how the UK economy works and how migrant people can effectively participate socially and economically.
Do you think it is hard as a woman and house wife to succeed in business in the UK?
It is hard work to juggle work with a young family. One has to be very determined and focused to be able to succeed in both roles. There are a lot of sacrifices to make including leisure time, to be able to achieve the set goals. But I think than once a woman finds the balance in business and builds in the family, it all falls in place like a jigsaw puzzle.
How have you managed to succeed in business in such a challenging time?
It is by God’s grace that achievement to this scale is possible. It’s not easy to pinpoint one thing that makes success. It is rather a combination of activities from reactivity, constant innovation and creativity, and seeking new opportunities which I am willing to fearlessly pursue and be committed to.
How and why did you decide to venture into fruits and vegetable market?
Part of the development work we do in Kenya involves training SMEs in business growth strategies and expansions, including export preparation. So when the opportunity came along, we were prepared to invest in it and develop this as guaranteed market for small scale farmers who may not have the opportunity to benefit from the huge export market and trade in the UK and EU.
What are the challenges you face to import East African goods?
The biggest challenges are in the areas of quality of products and the packaging. This is a huge topic that I could write a book on.
Do you buy into the notion that the Western market offers only restricted access for Africa?
I think there is big opportunity for African produce as people’s habits and status change and foods are part of our culture. More and more people are now consuming foods from all parts of the world. The only challenges are the cost of bringing in the produce from Africa which is quite high compared to getting similar produce from other EU and common market countries.
What does Africa need to be able to be a key player in the global market?
As mentioned, packaging from Europe is far more superior and attractive. These are some of the advantages that these produce have over the ones from Africa.
A lot needs to be done to bring down cost and improve packaging. There is a need to put dignity in the vocation of farming in Africa, so that the coming generations would view farming not just to sustain their livelihoods but also as a viable business option, to increase export earnings for their countries in the growing international markets.
SACOMA was established in 2000 to support Kiswahili speaking communities living in the UK. Sacoma aims to empower, inform and educate members of the Kiswahili community to enable them to overcome disadvantage and social exclusion and effectively participate in the social and economic regeneration of marginalized communities in the UK. www.sacomauk.com