Read caption Adam repairs a client’s motorcycle at a workshop supported by the Norwegian Refugee Council. Photo: Nashon Tado/NRC

Entrepreneurial spirits

Nashon Tado|Published 27. Mar 2017
NORTHERN KENYA/Kakuma refugee camp: Adam Mohamed set up a mechanic business in 2015. Today, Green Mountain Mechanics is booming.

The 28-year-old is now looking to expand the vehicle and motorcycle repair shop.

The business, which is located along one of the busiest streets of the 140,000-person camp, attracts a wide range of costumers. 

Local residents of Kakuma, refugees, aid agencies, and the Kenyan government are all queuing to have their vehicles repaired. Still, a central location is not necessarily what attracts the customers.

“Some of our clients come from as far as 50 kilometres away,” he says proudly.

Adam is one of four business partners. All of them graduated in 2015 after studying motor vehicle and motor cycle mechanics at an education centre run by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Kakuma.

Some of our clients come from as far as 50 kilometres away.
Adam Mohamed, co-founder of Green Mountain Mechanics

From Darfur to Kakuma

Initially, Green Mountain Mechanics had 10 staff members. But some left to start new businesses, and others resettled in third countries including the United States.

One of the remaining mechanics, Abdulaziz, remembers the horrors of the armed group Janjaweed invasions back in his homeland of Sudan’s Darfur.

“They would come in the morning riding on horses, or at night driving 4-wheel drive vehicles, and burn down people’s homes. My two brothers met their deaths during one of these gruesome attacks. My parents disappeared and I never saw them again,” says Abdulaziz.

All the other mechanics share a similar story - one of hardship, perseverance and resilience.

      

Read caption The South Sudanese mechanics are working hard so that they can expand their business. Photo: Nashon Tado/NRC

Saving for tomorrow

Working six days a week, the mechanics earn between 300 and 500 Kenya Shillings (US$3-5) a day. This is just enough to meet their basic needs. As Adam is single with no family of his own, he saves for the future.

“Looking back, I think I made a wise decision to enroll for the NRC course. The effort to acquire the skill in mechanical work is now paying me back,” he says.

          

Read caption All the mechanics share a story of hardship, perseverance and resilience. Photo: Nashon Tado/NRC

Business success

The mechanics of Green Mountain Mechanics are prepared to take on a range of challenging tasks.

 “The simplest problem that we encounter from our clients is automobile non-starting, which can be rectified within 15 to 30 minutes by cleaning the carburetor or replacing fuel filters,” he adds.

Adam and his co-workers often have to travel far for spare parts.

“The most complicated problem is a cracked engine block. This can take us three hours to rectify when all the spare parts are available,” he explains.

Sometimes we spend our own money as fare to travel to look for parts, but clients decline to refund us.
Adam Mohamed (28), co-founder of Green Mountain Mechanics

Looking ahead

Adam hopes that they one day will have resources to stock the shop to avoid having to travel the long distances for engine and vehicle parts. The group plans to apply for loans to buy high-demand spare parts.

“Sometimes we spend our own money as fare to travel to look for parts, but clients decline to refund us,” he says.

NRC continues to support the mechanics by connecting them with new market opportunities and scouting for potential clients to work with the mechanics. Now, Adam and Abdulaziz can continue to build their business.