More than 1, 200 youth and women entrepreneurs are set to benefit from a new government stimulus programme meant to boost their businesses.
This follows the launch of the Sh6 billion Uwezo Fund, which is aimed at empowering youth and women entrepreneurs by enabling them access the interest-free loans.
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Sunday oversaw the launch of the fund at the University of Nairobi. Groups of young people and women will access funds ranging between Sh50,000 and Sh500,000 to finance their business ventures.
The Sh6 billion had initially been budgeted for a presidential run-off after the March 4 General Election, but the Supreme Court ruled that President Kenyatta had won in the first round.
The President promised to allocate money to youth and women to help reduce surging unemployment in the country by funding their businesses.
“We want to equip and empower them (youth and women) to realise their full potential,” President Kenyatta said during Sunday’s launch ceremony.
To access the funds, applicants should be in registered groups comprising between five and 15 members. They will also pay a three per cent administration fee. However, preference will be given to groups that have been in existence for at least six months.
Beneficiaries are required to begin repaying the funds after a six-month grace period. The principal sum acquired should be paid within two years after the lapse of the grace period.
Devolution secretary Ann Waiguru, under whose ministry the Uwezo Fund falls, said the initiative would help the groups participate actively in the economy.
She said 75 per cent of the funds or Sh4.5 billion would be shared out equally among constituencies while Sh1 billion will be allocated on quota basis with the poorest constituencies receiving more. The rest will be used on training entrepreneurs to better manage their finances.
The funds will be accessed at the Constituency Development Fund offices and proposals will be scrutinised by a constituency committee comprising a youth representative, women’s representative, religious group, physically challenged person and a representative from each ward.
On national level, there will be an oversight body – the Uwezo Fund Board – made up of government representatives, women’s representative, youth representative and a physically challenged person. It will be tasked with ensuring sound disbursement and management of funds by officials and recipients respectively.
Over 1, 200 youth and women representatives of various registered groups attended the launch following their invitation by the Devolution Ministry.
President Kenyatta said he was hopeful the funds given to different groups would significantly reduce the ever growing unemployment rate.
He said the 70 per cent unemployment rate among young people in Kenya was “unacceptable.”