NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 25 – The Youth Enterprise Development Fund has expressed concern that many Kenyan youths lack knowledge of the wide range of products developed by the fund to support the needs of youth-led businesses.
This comes at a time when President Uhuru Kenyatta has rallied support for youth-led businesses and even promised a seven-year tax holiday under a proposed constitutional amendment under Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
Youth unemployment is on the rise countrywide and the discourse has changed whereby youth have been urged to focus on self-employment instead of eyeing employment.
The fund’s Board Chairperson, Victor Mwenda Mwongera, in an interview with Capital FM, said the majority of youth he had interacted with did not know the variety of products offered by the fund.
“Many youths who I interact with are not aware of our range of products and are always surprised that there is a product out there for them,” he said.
“I truly encourage the youth of this country to visit their nearest youth fund county office to access our services,” the Youth Fund Board chair urged.
Among the key products offered by the fund, Mwongera noted include interest-free group loans for youth looking to explore the entrepreneurial industry, business expansion and asset purchase loans for already existing businesses.
LPO financing loans has been set aside to enable youth to supply government agencies, the talanta loan product is aimed at promoting the creative talent in this country, and the agribizz loan product geared towards businesses in the agricultural sector.
“We have put in place many products and processes that we believe serve the youth to achieve this. Moreover, we are always ready to listen to our beneficiaries and customers to hear where we fall short and to discuss what else we can do to address this,” he said.
In addition, the agency’s Board Chair noted that the country is currently exploring the export channels within the African Union (AU) that will link the Kenyan youth to sell their products and/or services to a larger market.
“At the Youth Fund, we continue to look for business opportunities for our beneficiaries in order to provide linkages for these businesses and, using our name, create avenues for the youth businesses to begin engaging,” he said.
Amid the covid pandemic which has created uncertainities in the business sector, Mwongera said the fund has put in place major incentives to support SMEs including loan moratoriums, additional trainings and direct follow ups of beneficiaries to keep abreast of and ease business hardships.
“Youth Fund worked to support the fight against COVID-19 by providing affordable credit to manufacturers and producers of medical equipment. We issued loans for youth businesses who were supplying hand sanitisers and facial masks to agencies during the high demand period in 2020,” he added.
The agency has launched the Youth Enterprise Development Fund Strategic Plan 2020-2024 which seeks to, among many other things address many of the challenges facing the youth such as increased available credit, improved service delivery, more youth engagement and improved exposure to the market.
“We shall therefore be working against this document to increase our strategic partners, improve our resource base, increase the capacity of our staff and continue to expose the youth of this country to Youth Fund and the available services,” he said.
During the event launch held on Wednesday, 24 February, the government allocated Ksh1.3 billion to the Youth economy including Sh900 million which will be channeled to 250 young entrepreneurs as grants
Mwongera, 35, holds a PhD in Aerospace Engineering and is the Head of Department of Mechanical Engineering at Kenyatta University and is a Researcher in Aerospace Engineering.