BY MACHEL WAIKENDA
Over the last one week, the media has focused on the Jubilee government’s performance in its first 100 days. The analysis has been based on the key pledges President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto made when they sought votes from Kenyans.
One of the pledges they made was to set aside the Sh6 billion that would have been spent on a presidential poll re-run, to enable youth and women start income generating activities. Indeed the president did promise during his inauguration that within the first 100 days his government would develop a framework of disbursing this money to women and the youth.
Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru and her team have been working on the framework, which is now ready. The fund will be known as Uwezo Fund. The name Uwezo resonates well with the target group, youth and women. It represents the ideals of the fund, which is to empower youth and women start and grow enterprises for self-employment. It will complement the existing women and youth funds.
The fund will expand access to credit to promote women and youth enterprises at the constituency level and thereby enhance economic growth towards the realization of Vision 2030. It is expected to become a model framework in funding community driven development, like the Constituencies Development Fund, (CDF).
But lack of data and understanding of the challenges young people face, especially in the informal sector have in the past hampered efficient service delivery to them. There has been no research-based evidence on what really works. That is why the team working on the framework of Uwezo has extensively consulted youth and women. The team has also been guided by challenges experienced by the current women and youth enterprise funds, from the perspective of the beneficiaries.
Uwezo will be administered through the CDF in all 290 constituencies. The CDF committees will constitute Constituency Uwezo Management Committees to oversee its implementation. The youth, women and persons with disabilities will have representatives in these committees, so that they are part of decision-making. Youth and women living with disabilities will also get special preference when they apply.
The committees will be trained to ensure they are effective in their work. The committees will also be sensitized on the special needs of women and youth. They will work in accordance with guidelines that will be issued by the Ministry of Planning and Devolution. They will also be expected to report to the ministry on a monthly basis.
In order to enhance transparency, the committees will be expected to issue cheques to beneficiaries in public. They will also be expected to make information relating to beneficiaries public including displaying it on local notice boards.
The fund will give interest free loans, to enhance its sustainability and to inculcate a sense of responsibility in beneficiaries. Groups will be eligible to borrow up to Sh500,000 and will be allowed a four month grace period. All beneficiaries must be trained before monies are released to them.
Table banking will be a cardinal principle of this Fund. Borrowers, who will be registered groups, will in turn lend the money to their members, based on their proposals and ability to repay. The beneficiaries will therefore be key decision makers in the process.
The fund will be structured in such a way as to ensure strong linkage with the community, for purposes of ownership and mobilization at the grassroots level. The Member of Parliament will be the patron of the fund, working closely with local MPs.
This will hopefully encourage community participation and remove any apathy towards loans. Information will easily be accessible through traditional community channels, including public barazas, religious gatherings and other cultural specific ways of communication. Fund guidelines and application forms will also be available at the community level.
Since the fund will focus on viability of ideas as opposed to prior existence of a business our youth can now develop those ideas they harbour.
(The writer is the TNA Director of Communications and a Board member of the World Youth Parliament. Twitter @MachelWaikenda)