NAIROBI, KENYA, FEB 22 — The government should involve local youth entrepreneurs to realize President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ambitious “Big Four” plan, the Aga Khan University — East Africa Institute has said, as the Scale Forum officially launched in Kenya.
The institution of academic excellence, which is also an agent for social development, said local entrepreneurs have the ability to support the government in achieving its plans hence need to be incorporated.
Speaking during the inaugural “Scale Kenya Forum”, Aga Khan University, East Africa Institute Director Alex Awiti noted that president Kenyatta’s ‘Big Four’ plan falls at the heart of entrepreneurship.
“I will tell the president with confidence that it is through involving local entrepreneurs that he will realize his plan. He should stop looking at donors and look at the local market,” Awiti said.
The government is counting on the private sectors’ contribution to achieve President Uhuru’s plan which includes providing at least five hundred thousand (500,000) affordable new houses to Kenyans by 2022, consequently improving the living conditions for Kenyans.
The government is also keen to support value addition and raise the manufacturing sector’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product to 15 per cent by 2022, envisioned to accelerate economic growth, create jobs and reduce poverty.
President Uhuru is also ardent to lead the Jubilee administration in achieving universal affordable healthcare and food security by the end of his final five —year tenure.
“If he fails to involve entrepreneurs he might fail to achieve his plan,” Awiti said “The government needs to look at local companies which can provide healthcare. We could build one million houses by the time his (President Uhuru) term comes to an end. Let’s tap into the potential of our young people.”
To support the ‘Big Four’, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich has allocated Ksh38.8 billion to Agriculture, Rural and Urban development in the next financial year ( 2018/19 ) commencing July.
This is up from Ksh38.4 billion in the current financial year ending June 30.
The health sector will have a budget of Ksh64.3 billion up from the current Ksh61.7 billion.
The Aga Khan University (AKU) and the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) jointly held the Scale programme in Kenya on Thursday, aimed at supporting youth entrepreneurship in the country.
Speaking during the forum, key speaker and Tri.B Managing Director Gacheri Maingi called on youth entrepreneurs to comply with revenue authorities, align their businesses with government policies and support each other to benefit in the local economy.
“You need to be compliant. Pay your taxes. We have had very ambitious young entrepreneurs miss out on major deals simply because they lacked a tax compliance certificate. These are some of the things we ignore but have a major impact,” Maingi said.
She also challenged entrepreneurs to keep a good record of their customers, improve their business record keeping and collaborate to market their businesses.
“The construction sector is doing well in collaboration. One is selling sand and has links with the cement dealer and so forth,” she noted.
Under the theme ‘Youth Entrepreneurship for Social Impact’, the event held at the iHub in Nairobi brought together over 100 entrepreneurs and 25 exhibitors.
Among challenges identified at the Forum as affecting young entrepreneurs include lack of financing especially capital to invest, lack of commitment to businesses and poor management of resources and businesses.
Government policies are also among obstacles that make it more difficult for local businesses to survive and thrive.
“The government needs to do what it needs to do to support entrepreneurs. Some of the policies in place are not pro-business. We need to have a conducive environment for businesses to grow,” East Africa Institute director Alex Awiti said.
He also pointed out exorbitant taxes, multiple business licenses and high cost of electricity as among other challenges affecting small businesses.
Sector data indicate 70 per cent of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME’s) fail during their three years of operations. This translates to three out of every five businesses.
“SMEs contribute 18.4 per cent of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product). They create jobs, support industrial development and satisfy the local demand for services. They need to be supported to grow,” Tri.B’s Maingi said.
She noted that SMEs account for between 80 and 88 per cent of jobs in Kenya.
The Scale Forum which seeks to drive innovation among the youth and stakeholders was held in partnership with the East Africa Civil Society Initiative (CSI).
The forum saw inspiring young Kenyan entrepreneurs from Nairobi, Lamu, Kisumu, Kisii and Eldoret share their experience with their peers.
“We call for support from the local markets to help grow young business in this country. This will go a long way in supporting growth of the country’s economy,” said Maliha Mohamed, the director of Al-Maawy Boutique in Lamu.
Ecobora founder and CEO Justine Abuga called on entrepreneurs to adopt resilience and innovation as they push to actualize their business plans.
“There are a lot of challenges but one has to keep on pushing. Entrepreneurs also need to map their customers, identify key stakeholders they can work with and capitalize on these for growth,” Abuga told the Exchange.
The Scale programme was first launched in Uganda in May 2017. It moved to Tanzania in September 2017 before coming to Kenya.
According to the Aga Khan Foundation East Africa, young entrepreneurs have the potential to be a powerful vehicle for Kenya’s sustainable economic growth, and the driving force behind a number of creative solutions to broader socio-economic development challenges.
In 2016, the East Africa Institute of the Aga Khan University produced some of the most authoritative research on youth values, attitudes, concerns and aspirations in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.
The study identified unemployment as the single most pressing issue affecting youth, who form 80 per cent of the population.
Kenya’s unemployment was at 39.1 per cent last year according to the United Nations; Human Development Index (HDI) 2017, the highest in East Africa.
The Scale Kenya Forum covered among other topics, growing businesses on social media, leadership, innovation and opportunities in entrepreneurship.