When former President Mwai Kibaki announced in 2012 that 10 per cent of the value of all government contracts should be allocated to the youth, Kenyans were ecstatic the directive would help tackle spiralling levels of unemployment.
The move was informed by the government’s realisation that to meaningfully address the issue of youth joblessness, it was necessary to give young people opportunities to benefit from these lucrative tenders.
And in 2013, procurement rules were further amended to allow 30 per cent of all government contracts to be given to three special interest groups, the youth, women and the disabled in what was known as Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO)
Going by this constitutional requirement, big businesses were to share procurement opportunities with smaller companies especially those owned by these marginalised groups.
But the last available report by the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority of 2015/16 revealed that plan was all talk and little action.
It showed that the government has generally failed in its promise to reserve tenders for these groups.
“The 156 procuring entities reported to have reserved a total of Sh18.7 billion for the target groups by the national government entities of a cumulative total procurement budget of Sh87 billion. On the other hand, the county government entities reported to have reserved a total of Sh6.2 billion out of total cumulative budget of Sh28.8 billion.
“Cumulatively, the two levels of government reported to have reserved a total of Sh24.8 billion representing 21.5 per cent of the total annual procurement budget of Sh115 billion.
"The 21.51 per cent shows that a number of procurement entities did not reserve the requisite 30 per cent of their procurement budgets to the target groups,” the report says.
According to the report, the national government’s performance in fulfilling the requirement was 21.6 per cent while that of county governments was slightly lower.
Up for grabs
Years down the line, billions of shillings worth of tenders have been put up for grabs but the number of youth and women applying and winning them has been dismal.
It is out of this realisation that the Entrepreneurship Training Programme (ETP), an initiative that coaches participants in the three special groups on how to go for jobs, was founded.
Mr John Chomba is the brains behind the initiative. It was first piloted between October 2010 and April 2011 in constituencies within Nairobi.
The programme involves introducing participants to basic documentation and processes, such as company name search, and filling local purchase orders among other skills. The two day trainings give attendees the know-how to apply for government business.
Mr Chomba says that young people are not taking advantage of the opportunities in tendering largely because of inadequate information and lack of patience to walk through the tendering red tape.
“Most youths do not apply for government tenders because they do not know how to go about it. No one has trained them and their basic knowledge has deterred them from pursuing national and county governments’ tenders.
"That is why I decided to train young people on the fundamentals,” Mr Chomba, a former civil servant turned entrepreneur said in an interview.
He blames poor documentation and quotation by youth-run enterprises when applying for contracts for their plight.
Chomba said many youth do not stick within stipulated price guides of specific contracts and either overprice or grossly undercharge the government.
This makes them ineligible. Mobilisation is done by sub-county youth officers and eligible trainees of the programme should at least be O-level graduates and above with basic understanding of English, both written and spoken. The training is free, with organisation catering for logistics.
“We have been working closely with Ministry of Youth Affairs in the counties to identify youths that require training.
"But we have noted that while many people have registered for the programmes, many have failed to win tenders since the requirements are unachievable for most of them,” he says.
According to Mr Chomba, the training curriculum also involves motivation talks where successful youth, women or people living with disability share their success stories.
In order to access government procurement opportunities, the youth, must register a business as a sole proprietorship, partnership, a limited company or a co-operative.
Mr Chomba says that at least 70 per cent of the membership of the registered entities must comprise the youth and the outfits’ leadership must be 100 per cent youth, women and PWDS.
A PIN and tax compliance or tax exemption certificate from the Kenya Revenue Authority is also required.
Those that have their documentation in order can access the website www.agpo.go.ke and register online or visit the county government headquarters to register their entities for pre-qualification.