Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship Project in Kenya
VSO/Jeff DeKock

VSO and Citi

Supporting entrepreneurs to grow communities.

Balloon Ventures and Citi logos

Corporate volunteers from Citi have helped small businesses in some of the poorest countries in the world grow and flourish, while Citi-funded projects promote training and employment opportunities for thousands of young people in Kenya and Uganda.

Supporting small businesses to thrive

About 80% of all jobs in Africa are in small businesses, but most struggle to grow beyond employing one or two people. Poor access to finance, technology and markets are barriers to a thriving local economy.

Our four-week Knowledge Exchange volunteering programme, run jointly with social enterprise Balloon Ventures, saw Citi analysts provide valuable coaching to entrepreneurs from Nakuru, Kenya.

As a result:


88% developed new business ideas


75% improved their business operations


75% increased their financial understanding


63% developed stronger networks

Citi volunteers on placement in Kenya
VSO/Mussa Uwitonze
Citi volunteers in Kenya

Empowering young people

The Citi Foundation has also supported the Youth Entrepreneurship and Empowerment Project (YEEP) in Uganda and Kenya, which has:

  • trained 1,400 young people in job readiness skills,
  • empowered 500 entrepreneurs to start or scale their own business,
  • increased businesses' revenue and staff by 50%.

Understanding barriers to youth employment

As part of the YEEP pilot, we trained young people from the target communities to carry out research into barriers to youth employment and entrepreneurship.

Download the Understanding Barriers to Youth Employment report (PDF)

Organisational benefits

Helping the entrepreneurs to improve their businesses, overcome challenges and develop a sustainable business plan has definitely encouraged us to think strategically and creatively.
Yimin Ong
Citi volunteer

Along with sharing business knowledge, the Citi volunteers gained personal and professional skills. Adapting to a new cultural and economic environment, and testing opportunities in emerging markets, provide a unique learning experience.

In addition, many Citi volunteers have used the programme to improve their leadership, coaching and mentoring skills.

Volunteers represented Citi's corporate and investment banking sections, and came from Uganda, Hungary, France, Switzerland, Israel and the UK. This international group benefited from the experience of cross-team working, and gained significant understanding of working in an intercultural environment.

The power of corporate employee volunteering: Apolo's story

In 2017, Citi volunteers in Kenya acted as mentors to aspiring entrepreneurs, advising them on business strategy and ways they can increase their profits.

Apolo, who quit his job at Nakuru General Hospital in western Kenya to set up an animal feed supplement business, is one of those to benefit.

Volunteers worked with Apolo to improve his financial situation and cash flow. The group came up with a twelve-month business plan to drive the growth of his business, and helped him use a mobile app to track his finances.

At the end of the programme, Apolo and other local entrepreneurs prepared a 60 minute pitch for investment, after which loans were awarded to the best ideas. Apolo won a loan of 115,000 Kenyan shillings (£850), which gave him not only the capital but also the confidence to pursue his future ambitions, remarking, "Give me two years and I'll be a giant of Nakuru".

The growth of small businesses can help build a community; increasing wealth and opportunity for all. All the entrepreneurs have benefited from coaching, and Citi has learned a lot about the challenges small businesses face in accessing finance, technology and markets. Citi is proud to be working with VSO Knowledge Exchange on such an innovative project.

Rachel Barber
Head of community development Europe Middle East and Africa at Citigroup

Partner with us

Knowledge Exchange is VSO’s corporate employee volunteering programme. Develop your talented employees, while changing lives in the world's poorest communities

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