Environmentally-friendly Furniture Maker Strives to be the IKEA of Africa

Ciiru Waweru is a Kenyan entrepreneur who deploys the latest technology in her furniture factory, using computer-controlled cutting machines to make children-friendly fittings. Yet every day, a donkey cart delivers water to the FunKidz workshop located in Kikuyu town, just 20 kilometers (12 miles) northwest of the capital Nairobi. Water supply isn’t her only challenge: electricity is unreliable too and the facility has to use diesel generators time and again. Besides reducing productivity, these factors make the production process more expensive, hindering the final products’ competitiveness in the local and global market. Almost a decade since starting her company, FunKidz has however distinguished itself as a quality furniture brand, spreading beyond Kenya’s borders. FunKidz’s strategy aligns with a slew of programs launched in Kenya in the past year aimed at enabling sustainable businesses and planting 1.8 billion trees. Even as the East African nation aims to enhance its manufacturing sector from 9.2% to 20% of its gross domestic product by 2022, businesses have been encouraged to adopt climate mitigating practices and green technologies. Waweru says she’s struggled with training and retaining women at her factory but hopes her new business model will create a supply chain that employs more women, especially farmers, who can be paid to collect, shred, dry and package the waste. This also plays into her hope that authorities would boost small-scale, decentralized manufacturing businesses that can make products that are currently exported.


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