It has been four solid months since President Kenyatta unveiled the World Bank-funded youth project #MbeleNaBiz at Kasarani Gymnasium. Present at the February 24 ceremony was ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru, under whose ministry falls the programme to award 750 entrepreneurial youths Sh1.35 billion.
The President pledged to support the 750 #MbeleNaBiz candidates. He gave the youth big hope that they would not only never push wheelbarrows but also employ their fellow young people and become economically self-reliant. However, they are yet to be funded and are frustrated by the government.
Things are very ‘thick’ for the youth. Little is ‘moving’, with neither hope nor progress in sight.
The award winners signed contracts on March 3, but bureaucracy at the ministry has slowed them down. The money was to be disbursed strictly within the terms of contract but there’s nothing to celebrate. Only the first tranche of the cash has been disbursed to some award winners, and this after weeks of online protests and complaints.
Some winners have already started implementing their projects but, due to the slow and uncertain nature of the cash disbursement, coupled with lack of clear communication on the way forward, they feel cheated. That is torturous, coming at a time when mental health cases are increasing at an alarming rate.
The first tranche, which came after the beneficiaries literally begged the ministry to have mercy on them, cannot sustain a business start-up that is required to expand and employ other youths — that is, according to the business plans the proprietors submitted during applications for the competition.
These start-ups incur huge bills in rent and other trading fees, so they can’t generate the required revenue for self-sustenance. Businesses are stalling.
I beseech President Kenyatta to come to the rescue of the youth, who have chosen to be part of the economic development of the nation as diligent entrepreneurs. Let him direct the ministries and other relevant agencies in his government to expedite the release of the monies to the award winners for effective implementation of their projects.
Landlords, KRA, county governments and regulatory bodies cannot understand the challenges these youth go through and be lenient to them yet they are too incapacitated to meet all their commitments this early.
The Youth Enterprise Fund is in ICU. So are the other programmes under MSEA and KYEOP, where the #MbeleNaBiz award competition falls. We can’t afford to waste more time.
For the sake of securing a colourful legacy, the President should act now and save the youth from depression. As he assured them, they don’t want to push a wheelbarrow as an ‘economic pillar’.
Rachel Mwangi, Nairobi