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East African youth entrepreneur summit closes with pitch to governments

26 May 2017

Young entrepreneurs from Commonwealth countries in East Africa have proposed a raft of policy measures to boost economic growth and reduce youth joblessness.

Governments should consider simplifying regulations and easing processes to access credit to help create new youth-led businesses, according to the group.

The entrepreneurs from Kenya, Uganda, Seychelles, Mauritius, Tanzania and Rwanda were meeting for the inaugural summit of the Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs-East Africa (CAYE-EA).

The summit was held from 24 to 26 May 2017 in Nairobi, Kenya under the theme ‘Think Big: Business Beyond Borders’. It brought together over 100 young entrepreneurs and was hosted by the Kenya National Association of Youth Enterprises and Government of Kenya, with the support of the Commonwealth Secretariat.

A communique issued by the group urges Commonwealth governments to endorse “six key imperatives that will strengthen the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the region”. Among the policy proposals, it calls for:

  • Simplifying company registration processes for start-up businesses
  • Providing preferential access to government procurement for young entrepreneurs
  • Adopting less rigid tax laws for start-ups including incentives and tax breaks
  • Easing processes to access credit by providing guidance to public and private banks
  • Enhancing infrastructure to create world class incubation centres
  • Encouraging research and development and providing entrepreneurship training
  • Involving young entrepreneurs in policy-making and implementation

The summit’s opening ceremony was officiated by the Cabinet Secretary for Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, Mrs Sicily K. Kariuki, who said her government believes in “crafting solutions together with youth and not just for youth.”

On the crisis of youth unemployment, the Cabinet Secretary said, “We are in this together, government can only do so much. The ball is in your court, you must speak out on hurdles you face as youth entrepreneurs.”

Special guest speaker was Dr Manu Chandaria, Chairman of Comcraft Group, who said, “Building up business networks can be quite tasking. It requires commitment of time and resources but the results are worthwhile because work gets done better.”

Another of the guests, Mary Mugambi of the Commonwealth Women in Business, said, “The East African Market is very large and offers endless opportunities for entrepreneurs. Read, ask questions and get out there.”

The summit included a pitching competition for young entrepreneurs, whereupon 10 young entrepreneurs presented their business ideas to a distinguished panel of business leaders. The competition was won by Miss Esther Macharia, a HR professional and owner of E-Bakers, which promotes healthy living with gluten free, eggless and sugar-free cakes. Her pitch was to increase the volume of her baking business and mentor young women to own and manage their own businesses.