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The ‘Mama Uji’ who saved to buy a house

Beaming with pride, the woman appeared to be in dreamland as she showed visitors her new two-bedroom house.

Although the house lacks the trappings of up-market apartments such as a bathtub, sauna, in-built wardrobes, stylish floors and wall finishing, elegantly done granite-surface kitchen or top gas cookers, it was decent enough to be any renter’s envy.

Until last week, the middle-aged woman lived in a shanty in Kawangware estate, where she had stayed with her late husband (she said he died recently because of stress) since the 2007/2008 post-election violence that uprooted them from their former home.

She has been selling porridge to make ends meet. For the past four years, she has been saving part of the proceeds from her business through a chama affiliated to the National Cooperative Housing Union (Nachu).

Her savings helped her to get a loan from Nachu that was enough to construct the Sh1.2 million house she now owns in Kiambu County, just a few kilometres from Nairobi’s central business district.

Dozens of other women in her chama also benefited from the loan and are now proud owners of houses like hers under the same project.

This woman could not hide her joy last week as she showed journalists and guests who had come for the official handing over of the houses by Nachu to the owners.

The common thread among the beneficiaries of the new houses was that they were all small-scale traders.

Lesson one: Owning a house starts with saving diligently.

Lesson two: No amount of income is too small to lead to home ownership. What is important is the will and determination to work towards realising your dream house.

The last time I made this argument in this column a few weeks ago, a reader challenged me, saying it was almost impossible to save for a house in Kenya because of rapidly rising prices.

True, housing prices are rising rapidly, but if you want it bad enough, you will save and look for creative ways to achieve your dream. The case of the Mama Uji mentioned above is proof enough.