Initiated by the Government of Kenya and supported by the World Bank, competition offers a rare opportunity to young entrepreneurs seeking capital for their businesses
By George Gichuki
Scores of youth in the country graduate from universities and tertiary colleges every year, while others do not proceed with their education after sitting for standard eight and form four national examinations. Consequently, they look for jobs in order to earn a living. With the number of employment opportunities in the formal sector being limited, most of these youth opt for entrepreneurship. Indeed, a big number of micro, small and medium enterprises ( MSMEs) in the country in fields like information and communications technology ( ICT), videography and photography, entertainment, graphics design , retail outlets of electronics and clothes as well as stationery and office equipment among others that are dotted throughout the country are owned and managed by young entrepreneurs. Given its favourable returns, agribusiness is also attracting the youth.
Unfortunately, most of these businesses die at their start up stage because of encountering challenges like inability to access adequate capital and market for their goods and services. It is against this background that the Government of Kenya under the Kenya Youth Employment and Opportunities Project (KYEOP) has launched the MbeleNaBiz Business Plan Competition. The competition seeks to create jobs and increase income for the youth. This is by investing in young entrepreneurs whose ventures will generate jobs and income for their age mates. It is being implemented by the Micro and Small Enterprises Authority (MSEA) and the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs with the support from the World Bank. In the same breath, KPMG has been contracted to manage the countrywide competition where 250 young entrepreneurs emerging as winners will each receive a grant of Kshs. 3.6 million. By the same token, 500 winners will each walk away with Kshs. 900,000. Applicants will be evaluated based on the potential impact, viability and sustainability of the proposed business idea – especially in respect to the potential of their business to create jobs among the youth.
Speaking during the launch of the competition, Hon. Peter Munya, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives observed: “By investing in young entrepreneurs whose ventures will generate employment opportunities and earning for other youth, the competition will contribute to the development of an inclusive economy that provides opportunities to as many Kenyans as possible.” Dr. Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, the World Bank Country Director for Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda in the same vein emphasized that young people are a vital driver of Kenya’s economy. “In all our conversations with the youth, the government and the private sector, one thing has been clear: we have to support young entrepreneurs in their bid to create and grow their businesses,” said Dr. Felipe.
Being a national competition, MbeleNaBiz will accept applications from new and existing youth led enterprises from all the 47 counties. Applications will also be received from young Kenyans living in the diaspora, provided that their proposed businesses shall operate in the country.
The youth applying for MbeleNaBiz should be aged between 18 and 35 years, and their level of education should be form four and above. “The government continues to dedicate resources to youth empowerment and seeks to put in place mechanisms that will create opportunities with an aim to boosting Kenya’s development, wealth and employment of the youth,” said Prof. Margaret Kobia, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, adding she is optimistic that many young entrepreneurs will participate in the competition. The application portal opened on 24th June 2019 and it shall continue receiving applicants until 2nd September 2019. The winners will be announced in February 2020.
A lively conversation took place during the official launch of the MbeleNaBiz Business Plan competition. The panelists comprised successful entrepreneurs : Myke Rabar, the founder and chief executive officer ( CEO) of HomeBoyz Entertainment, Sam Gichuru, the founder and CEO of Nairobi Incubation Lab ( Nailab) and Kuhustle as well as Nekesa Were, CEO, iHub and Olivia Ouko, national project manager, KYEOP. Both Rabar and Gichuru shared the view that every day is a struggle for businesses and entrepreneurs therefore cannot afford to rest on their laurels.
In the course of the conversation, it emerged that many young entrepreneurs in attendance did not have mentors. It is in that respect that Gichuru observed that mentorship is a critical tool in the quest to succeed in entrepreneurship. “Entrepreneurs make mistakes in their day to day journey,” he said adding that mentors help entrepreneurs to avoid making costly mistakes. Gichuru also emphasized that entrepreneurs must learn to balance between their talents and work ethics.
Entrepreneurs were also cautioned against expanding their businesses unless there was a need to do so. “Building of a successful ecosystem should be the major focus of entrepreneurs before scaling up,” said Rabar. He added that expansion if not well managed may lead the entrepreneur to spend a lot of time on the operations of his or her business, at the expense of more critical issues like driving strategy. “Serve a small clientele successfully first before spreading your wings,” Nekesa advised the attentive young entrepreneurs attending the launch of MbeleNaBiz. Indeed, the competition offers a golden opportunity for young entrepreneurs to access capital for running their businesses which is often a nightmare to most of them.