I recently had the pleasure of meeting and catching up with the Chairman of the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) Bruce Odhiambo at his office at the National Bank House, Harambee Avenue in Nairobi. I emphasise the exact location because he reiterates that it is not secret. It is a public office that is accessible to all youth of Kenya.
As we were catching up, I could not hide my curiosity and essentially interrogated him on the progress of YEDF and whether it has gained traction. Yes, the fund has been highly hyped but the question is, “Are there members of the youth fraternity applying for this fund?” To my surprise, according to Bruce’s account, the assumption that youths are swarming their offices to apply the fund is far from the reality.
It seems as Kenyans, we are a long way from understanding how the merit system works. It seems that the “kujuana”- need to know someone- culture has caught on with our youth as well. There has been a serious misconception that the best deals are best made in the social scene rubbishing all formalities. That should not be the case.
Perhaps, I need to point out that the fund exists because of the hard earned tax payers’ money and it is to benefit all youth and not a selected few who feel entitled because of who they know.
Bruce made me understand that the process is quite elaborate but not so complicated; almost like sitting an exam on your favourite subject. “Mtaka cha mvunguni sharti ainame” – He who seeks a reward must work hard for it. An observation that was made by the chairman is that the culture to reason like business minds needs to be harnessed among our youth. How? That is the million shilling question. I am not exactly sure whether I can answer that. But I can attempt to give a solution in part. In my view, the education system needs to change to nature a self-reliance mentality. I digress.
Back to the process! To be eligible for consideration for the fund, one needs to put together a business plan. The business plan need not be perfect but it needs to capture all the basics to show your vision for the business you would like to start as a youth. I am no expert in writing a business plan but I am sure it is nothing Dr. Google cannot fix. As an applicant, one of the key things one must undertake research. Why the nature of business proposed? Are there any case studies of successful similar business? What will you do different to create a niche? You would also need to project the numbers. Business is a numbers game, right? You also need to show an elaborate strategy. Are there any envisaged partnerships? Are there contracts and other documentary proof in place or samples? And lastly, cover the intellectual property aspects of your business. Demonstrate you know where the strength of the business lies. If you lack the funds to register a trademark for example, do your research on the cost implications on such a registration to be included in the asking on the business proposal. After all, the most successful businesses and brands in the world have realized and protected their intellectual property. Many do not realize it but intellectual property is the core of any successful business.
In my view, as you contemplate to apply for this fund, show a little initiative. Register a business name or a company. The latter is far much cheaper and more appropriate for a sole proprietorship, however, you can also register a partnership in the case of a group coming together to do business. Don’t forget to register for YAGPO so that you take advantage of the preferential treatment for youth in tenders.
The chairman also informed me that after business plans have been reviewed and sieved, those showing potential will receive business mentorship and training to fine tune their business plans and also educate them further on business strategies and practices to sharpen their skills to be more competitive and lucrative is the business playing field in Kenya and possibly in the international field as well.
After this conversation with the chairman, I bumped into a colleague in the creative space and he stated a rather interesting fact. That in the past there have been such funds established but the threshold to access was rather high and in turn cultivated a culture of disillusionment. As a result, the members of the public gave up trying and let the status remain as is. I am certain that as a result it is possible that such funds magically disappeared into thin air because there was no watch dog.
In my view, we need to adapt transparency in how such funds are managed and accessed. Let us have a list of applicants published every month or every quarter in the gazette and local dailies. And subsequently another list of the successful applicants also published. On the back end, the applicants should receive comprehensive reports dissecting their applications and giving pointers on their strengths and weaknesses. In turn, the unsuccessful ones have confidence to apply and try again to access the fund. That does not sound so hard, does it?
As YEDF strives to get traction and get its house in order, I am hopeful that the processes to access the funds will be documented in their website and forms also uploaded for easy access. In my assessment, the idea of this fund came from a good place to genuinely boost the livelihood of Kenyan youth.
We need to encourage the youth around us to be independent thinkers and see their potential as job creators. More employed youth equals peace of mind and hopefully a decrease in crime rates in our country. Remember an idle mind is indeed the devil’s workshop.