, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 20 – The government on Thursday said it would reduce turnaround time for loan applications of the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) by 50 percent while at the same time increasing loan uptake, in order to create more job opportunities for the youth.
While launching the fund\’s 100 days Rapid Results Initiative, Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Paul Otuoma said the move was aimed at reducing the unemployment rates in the country which currently stood at 40 percent.
He added that 90,000 youth groups, with a maximum of 20 persons, had in recent past accessed funds from the kitty.
"How many of our youths in the country can really say yes the Youth Fund has touched me in one way or the other and even if it has not touched me, I\’m in the process of being touched? We want to see the youths empowered," he said.
The Minister also noted that 80 percent of those who had accessed loans paid back.
"You know not everyone can be an entrepreneur and pay their loan but they learn their lessons. But the entrepreneur can create jobs and employ other people and that\’s the whole purpose," he said.
Dr Otuoma further explained that the fund had already started recruiting interns who would be charged with guiding youths access the loans in all the constituencies countrywide. He pointed out that Sh50 million had been set aside to oversee the recruitment of 420 interns.
"Nearly two interns have been employed in every constituency. The whole idea is to educate; go out there and engage. That is why we are saying the work for the youth is not in the office; they need to see how government\’s policies are being implemented," he said.
He also said that the fund which was established in 2006 would be decentralised to facilitate its access.
"We need these funds out there with the youth not in financial institutions because they already have their money. And the reason why the youth fund was started is not because there was no money in the economy but because we wanted to cater for the youths," he argued.
Dr Otuoma further said that a credit guarantee scheme would be established to encourage financial institution lend to the youth. He explained that the guarantee would have a risk sharing mechanism to enable financial institutions lend their own money without the fear of defaulting.
He further called for an audit of the successes of the fund so far arguing that it would help the youth make the right decisions.
"So that we can say this is what we put in place, can we measure it and do we get a feedback or do we need to wait for those reports and then we say this was done?" he posed.
He also proposed that a youth enterprise directory be compiled to help young entrepreneurs access contracts from the government and private sector.
"These initiatives coupled with continued funding by the exchequer will position the Fund to be a leading youth empowerment programme in Kenya and beyond," he said.
Others present were the ministry\’s assistant minister, Wavinya Ndeti, and the Permanent Secretary, James Waweru, together with acting Chief Executive Officer of the YEDF, Mwatata Mwangala.
They also argued that opportunities created for the youth through the fund would help the country realise her long term development goal, Vision 2030.
Ms Wavinya further urged the youth to pay back their loans so as to sustain the kitty.
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