The Uwezo fund initiative was finally unveiled on Sunday by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto. The Initiative has seen the government set aside kshs. 6 billion, which is expected to be disbursed to different constituencies for the youth and women.
According to the government, this fund is going to completely change the life of Kenyan women and youth. It is a chance for them to make use of their entrepreneurial skills by accessing these funds. The employment rate especially among the Kenyan youth has always been ranked very high in the country. A recent report by World Bank revealed how unemployment continues to be a great hindrance to the country’s development. This fund is therefore expected to create employment opportunities for the youth and women of this country.
This fund will be disbursed to the constituency level and registered youth and women groups have been called upon to apply.
However, these funds are not going to reach its intended purpose if they are not going to be used correctly. Similar past initiatives like the youth fund and the women enterprise fund which were initiated by former President Kibaki’s government have been faced with allegations of corruption and misuse of funds. These funds did not achieve their intended purpose as they ended up in the pockets of the people who were to oversee its implementation.
The Kazi kwa Vijana programme, which was also an initiative aimed at trying to reduce the rate of employment in the country had also its challenges. The youth, who were to benefit from this initiative, were subjected to harsh jobs from cleaning rivers, garbage collections and other social works all in the name of youth employment and empowerment. Donors, including the World Bank came in and pledged their support for this noble project.
Unfortunately, an audit report by the World Bank revealed how the funds were grossly misused by the same leaders mandated to oversee the programme. It was suspected that the monies were channeled to selfish personal interests. It was all over the media how elusive the implementation of the initiative was as youth who were involved in the actual work went without pay yet their working conditions and facilities remained pathetic.
As the new Uwezo fund now starts taking effect, Kenyans will be waiting to see how these funds will be managed. Are they going to go the same way as the youth fund, the Kazi kwa Vijana and women enterprise funds where funds were mismanaged.
Youth empowerment is the first step towards realizing a strong growing and efficient nation. We should not throw away the baby with the towel of mismanagement. The people mandated to oversee this Uwezo fund trust should know that they will be held accountable for every little fund that is disbursed. They should also make sure that they follow up on the women and youth who take these funds to ensure that they are put into good use.
Young Kenyans have been known to have great entrepreneurial skills; the problem has just been how get the capital to implement these skills. The youth and women should therefore use this opportunity to apply for these funds to enable them create employment for themselves.
Our education sector has also been blamed for preparing students for the job market only. Analyst have warned that the Kenyan job market is not enough to accommodate all students clearing colleges or campus bringing into focus the need for these students to acquire entrepreneurial skills. With skills, students clearing schools can set up their own business and even employ others. With funds like the Uwezo fund trust, the youth can easily get capital which is interest free.
As the Uwezo fund starts taking effect, one only hopes that the funds will indeed achieve its purpose free of corruption. The leaders overseeing this project should make sure the funds reach the intended persons. They should take responsibility and ensure they are accountable to the youth and women expected to benefit from these noble initiative
Nixon Kanali, Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC), Nairobi