By Toby Otum
President Uhuru Kenyatta has said the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) constitutional reform process will better the business environment in the country.
The President said reform proposals such as the seven-year tax holiday proposed by the BBI will guarantee the survival of business start-ups in the country.
“In fact, the BBI initiative, which is about constitutional change and legislative change as well, will facilitate this process. Through the legislative aspect of BBI, we intend to provide a seven-year tax holiday for young entrepreneurs like the 750 grantees of this project,” President Kenyatta said.
He noted that the tax holiday will assist young entrepreneurs to plough back their profits into business and grow their enterprises.
“Instead of taking 1 billion shillings in taxes from the 250 young entrepreneurs in 7 years, we are proposing to have them retain this money and expand their endeavours,” the President said.
The Head of State spoke at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani where he unveiled the 750 winners of the ‘MbeleNaBiz’ business plan competition and launched the 2020 to 2024 Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) strategic plan.
The business plan competition is a component of the 1.3 billion World Bank funded Kenya Youth Employment and Opportunities Project (KYEOP). KYEOP’s objective is to create new and expand existing youth-led enterprises by providing them with grant financing and business training.
A total of 11,737 youth participated in the competition out which 750 emerged winners. From the winners, 250 participants were awarded grants of Shs 3.6 million while 500 were granted Shs 900,000 each.
On YEDF, the President said the Fund, which is one of the Government’s strategies to address youth unemployment through entrepreneurship has to-date supported 2 million youth with loans worth Shs13.5 billion.
He said the plan launched today will raise the revolving Fund from Shs 4.5 billion to Shs 5.5 billion and is expected to raise loans disbursement to Shs 16 billion in five years.
“I am pleased to note that the Fund has disbursed a total of Ksh. 501 million in loans since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Kenya. These loans have helped to sustain youth owned enterprises, thereby enabling them to diversify into new opportunities, and to maintain employees.
“The plan we launch today aims to transform the Fund into an efficient and responsive entity that meets the needs of our young people. We consulted widely; we listened keenly; the plan is our attempt to align the work of the Fund with the expectations and aspirations of our young people.
President Kenyatta expressed optimism That YEDF, which also offers training to the youth on how to grow their businesses, will enable young entrepreneurs to recover from losses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.
World Bank Kenya Country Director Keith Hansen said the Kenyan economy has shown remarkable resilience in confronting the COVID-19 and thanked the Government for taking steps to manage the situation.
He expressed gratitude that 33 percent of the winners of the business plan competition are women noting that the enterprises which have a multiplier effect are a model to be utilized elsewhere in the world.
Other speakers were the ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs CS Joe Mucheru and Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry Nadia Abdala.
Education CS Prof George Magoha and his trade counterpart Betty Maina were among several senior Government officials at the event.