How to apply for UWEZO FUND

136395_5_20130908181935_01President Uhuru (right), Deputy President William Ruto and actor Abel Mutua share a light moment during the launch of the fund. Photo: State House.

By Beryl Osindo    newsdesk@nairobidigest.co.ke

President Uhuru Kenyatta recently launched the UWEZO fund in an attempt to fulfil a pledge he and his deputy, Hon William Ruto made to the youth and women.

Today, UWEZO fund, as the name suggests, enables youths, women, and disabled persons to access government tenders and to get loans repayable in eight-month instalments. The Jubilee government with the assistance of the Ministry of Devolution and Planning launched a program that would see them spend Sh6 billion in financing the UWEZO fund.  UWEZO fund seeks to empower the youth and women so that they can become independent and self-sufficient.

Eligibility

Youth groups, women, and the disabled are qualified to apply for the capacity-building program launched on September 8 2013.

The youth groups must register with the Department of Social Services or the Registrar of Societies with a membership of 9 – 15 members. These two registering bodies give women and youths an approved copy of Registration Certificate, which the group use at the designated offices in various constituencies to access funds.

A third condition is that members of the groups need to be adults between 18 and 35 years. This is important since during registration, they need to provide their identification cards (IDs) numbers.

Following the devolution, groups can only access funds from constituencies in which they will operate. The essence of such an operation is to ensure that income generated within a constituency benefits the same people that create the resources. In response to these requirements, cabinet secretary in the concerned ministry, Anne Waiguru mentioned that UWEZO fund incorporates table-banking procedures in order to promote transparency between members. Through this system, members can easily make monthly contributions and save money in a particular local bank with the group name. When the group seeks a reimbursement of the amount, they should produce bank statements and a recommendation from an area chief.

How it works

Initially, it was difficult for youths, women, and the disabled to procure government tenders or to get loans. Through UWEZO fund, eligible individuals can access available procurement positions amounting to over 30 percent of the enterprise and supply industries across the country.

UWEZO works at the National and constituency level. At the National level, there is disbursement of money to constituencies while an oversight committee observes how constituencies use the money. The President equally launched his website designed to survey the situation and to encourage transparency.

Throughout the 290 constituencies, women, youth, and disability representatives oversee implementation of UWEZO fund and allocation of resources to eligible groups. UWEZO fund encourages public fund borrowing with only three percent of the borrowed amount charged at the beginning of the entire exercise (administration fee). Today, people can access interest-free loans as start-up capital for SMEs, but the limit for borrowing is Sh500,000.

Merits and demerits

The fact that people can easily access the application forms online is an advantage. It is affordable and efficient making it possible for many people to access the services within a short period.

In addition, it involves training of the youth groups, women, and the disabled in order to ensure that the government will equally have value for its money. Finally, it has an eight-month period of repaying the borrowed money, which is enough since the program will only take one year.

The single year period is a disadvantage for people who would be willing to borrow money in 2015. Additionally, many Kenyans are willing entrepreneurs; they have skills, but lack ID cards making it impossible for them to access these funds.

Public response

The public is indifferent to the UWEZO fund as some people feel that members of parliament are right in arguing that it has some hidden charges. On the other hand, a better part of society feels it is an important program for the marginalized groups in society.

Below is President Uhuru’s speech during the launch of the fund.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to join you at the launch of the Uwezo Fund. It is another opportunity for usto continue a conversation that the Jubilee Coalition has been having with the young people of Kenya. This conversation is earnest and patient. So far, it has been rewarding and full of revelations. By and large, acceptable political practice entails a seasonal engagement with the Youth and a generosity with hasty platitudes. In the end leaders get what they are after, while the youth return to their old situation.

To a politician, this does make strategic sense in a tragic, myopic sort of way. But after the engagement, no side is closer to an understanding, yet the youth rely on leaders to devise solutions for their challenges and implement empowerment programmes.The constitution requires accountability, consultation and public participation in the formulation of policies and programmes. In recognition of this requirement, and as a matter of common sense, we in the Jubilee Coalition resolved long ago that our Government shall place consultation with stakeholders at the heart of its administration.

While consultation requires a measure of patience, it rewards by eliminating obstacles caused by lack of consensus, information gaps, hostility and suspicion. We applied this approach in our campaign, and we were rewarded immensely. We did it again with the land problems at the Coast, and were able to commence the decisive resolution of a problem older than the Republic of Kenya. On the IDP issue, we managed to find consensus for a resettlement model that gives the affected parties broad latitude to choose where to live and what to do there. We do this every day as a way of life for our Government.

It gives us a chance to converse with Kenyans in all their diversity, and develop appropriate governance solutions to improve their lives and develop the country. It is a conversation that will not stop. That is why we are here today. The Uwezo Fund is the culmination of a pledge we made before our election. We had to consult deeply and widely on how the limited funds pledged would reach as many youths as possible in sufficient volumes to catalyse meaningful economic activity. Our consultation has not disappointed us. But first of all, I must thank the young people of Kenya for the unstinting support and stupendous energy that you lent the Jubilee Coalition.

You brought us into Government. Already, you have made a significant contribution to national transformation. We have first-hand, incontestable proof of what young people can achieve when given an opportunity. In recognition of this fact, we will discharge our very specific pledge to the Youth by systematically tackling the challenges inhibiting them from playing their role and exercising their abilities.

Youth comprise the strength, wealth and drivers of innovation in Kenya. But as we speak, 70% of unemployed people in Kenya are youth. This is an unacceptably high number, given that 30.3% of our population is classified as youth. Of this, 92% have formal education. The youth constitute the generation that has lived through the greatest social, political, intellectual, scientific and technological transformation in modern history. This exerts its own unique pressures which, coupled with crime, drug abuse and moral corruption creates a formidable powder keg of challenges.

Although significant, these challenges should not provide an excuse for any young person to throw away their life into crime, drug use or sexual abuse.Our economy is growing faster every other year. We are putting together the strategic framework and infrastructure for Kenya’s impending economic take-off. We want the youth to be in the centre of national prosperity. To equip and empower them to play their full part and realise their potential we will, through universities, colleges and institutes of technology, arm youth with effective and relevant skills to service a modern economy.

We are about to undertake a nationwide audit of skills and competencies to help us align training opportunities and resources with the country’s actual needs at the national and county level.We are already effecting our youth-specific affirmative action in Government procurement to enable enterprises run by young people participate in development. A policy on internship is being developed to avail on-the-job training for all college students who need it. The challenge here is establishing a set of incentives for industries and businesses to respond positively. But conversation with stakeholders is underway. Finally, we will set up centres of innovation to support an emerging generation of highly talented, innovative Kenyans. I want you all to know that we will keep our promise, in full.

We will not allow any obstacle to be an excuse to neglect our youth at their hour of need, at the point when they can perform wonders for this country. Where there is no way, we shall make it. That is why I invite every young person in Kenya to get ready for action, and to join the national conversation. My Government is your friend. The Jubilee Coalition is you collaborator at this event, therefore, we are not merely launching a Fund, or disbursing money. We are incubating enterprise. We are catalysing innovation. We are promoting industry. We are employing the Youth and we are growing the economy. Every encounter between the Jubilee Coalition and the young people of Kenya never fails to produce spectacular national transformation. This launch is another such encounter.

We expect this fund to initiate a ‘multiplier effect’ throughout the economy, as a new stream of entrepreneurs unleash energy into various sectors. Each constituency will receive a share of the fund and youth will play a direct role in managing the Fund. Please work with the Management Steering Committee to ensure full that there is transparency and equity in disbursement. I expect Agribusiness and digital innovation to shortly play their role in accelerating economic growth, and look forward to recognising and interacting with exemplary projects year after year.

Let us continue our conversation and partnership. Please go forth and accomplish your dreams. I wish you success and an exciting, rewarding time as you embark on your ventures.

Thank you. God bless you all.

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Nairobi Digest

Kenyan Journalist