Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation: Lessons from Tana River County
Tana River County Government launched the Tana River Youth Innovation and Empowerment Centre (TRY-IEC) in Hola on 23rd March 2022 in partnership with UNDP and the Kenya School of Government. The centre was created to model youth empowerment by driving innovation and entrepreneurship in line with the county’s climate-sensitive development planning approach called urban cluster villages. In addition, the youth centre has provided an opportunity to develop a more integrated and comprehensive approach to co-create youth empowerment in collaboration with other stakeholders, such as the private sector.
UNDP Kenya, through the Green Economy Youth Activation Programme (GrEYAP)) has been providing support to the Micro and Small Enterprise Authority (MSEA) to increase the formalization of Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs) in line with the MSE Policy. Through the partnership, UNDP Kenya has supported the establishment of the MSE database, the registrar system, built Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) access and the bulk SMS platform that has enabled the formalization of 15,000 MSEs to date.
Youth-led MSEs in Tana River are largely informal, unregistered and cannot take advantage of market opportunities. In this vein, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Micro and Small Enterprises Authority (MSEA), Kenya School of Government (KSG) and the County Government of Tana River organized the training for 120 youth enterprises in Hola, Tana River County from 11th-29th July 2022. What set the training apart is the breadth of topics covered, intensive engaging sessions, and role plays conducted with the help of experienced trainers and mentors. The scope of the training included aspects of entrepreneurship; marketing strategy and market access; business modelling and management; accounting and financial management; leadership; Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO) and export promotion.
Salim Kalime a youth coordinator noted that the youth of Tana River have the energy, ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit required to accelerate economic empowerment and was delighted to participate in this training.
Youth in Tana River own businesses in various sectors such as agribusiness (32%) which includes livestock farming, mango, and watermelon value chains; wholesale and retail trade (8%); services (30%) which include salons, barber shops and cyber cafes; manufacturing (30%) which includes carpentry, metal works and fabrication. Among the attendees, were the members of Elimika Women Group who have invested in mango value addition and currently producing mango juice with the brand name LILE. Their venture is leveraging on the annual mango production of 30,000 metric tonnes in Tana River County and plans to diversify into the production of mango jam, crisps and yoghurt. This training equipped them with knowledge of required certification, market strategies and export opportunities.
We also interacted with Hashim, a business owner selling sorghum tea. Although his product has been selling in the local market, his business is neither registered nor his product branded. This is not unique and represents the general nature of most youth enterprises in Tana River County. On the other hand, Akim had his business registered but was unaware of existing funding sources and market opportunities.
The Governor of Tana River County, H.E Dhaddo Godana, lauded the partnership with UNDP while reflecting on the strides that the centre has made. He committed more support towards further development of the centre.
“The main encumbrance to supporting youth-led businesses through the Inuka Fund is lack of proper registration which is a prerequisite in accessing the fund,” said Elisha Buya the County Director of Trade. He went on further to call upon the youth to be forward thinking and leverage opportunities such as the African Continental Free trade Area (AfCFTA) and Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO).
Innovation among budding MSEs is limited. Therefore, continuous mentorship through incubation facilities annexed to the innovation centres can help model new products and services by MSEs. In addition, access to funding opportunities can be enhanced by fostering linkages with existing funds such as Inuka Fund, Youth Enterprise Development Fund, Uwezo Fund and other commercial lenders.
In conclusion, this training has enabled the youth to increase their incomes; adopt required standards for starting and expanding businesses; formalize their businesses and enhance knowledge on sourcing for funding and grant opportunities, business sustainability, and accessing markets.
By Julius Coredo & Samuel Kimani,
Inclusive Growth, UNDP Kenya.