Background and objectives:
This program is a joint initiative by UN-HABITAT Global Partnership Initiative (GPI) and the Environmental Youth Alliance. The GPI began with an objective of empowering vulnerable urban youth groups for improved socio-economic inclusion and development and quickly became part of UN-HABITAT’s strategy on youth. The overarching goal of GPI-EEP is to be a youth led development project in which peers educate and support each other. It is based on Asset Based Community Development in which the assets of the youth in Nairobi are looked at rather than solely their needs, such that the youth realize the potential they have within themselves and the opportunities available to them in their communities rather than looking at what they are lacking or what their communities do not have.
What makes this program different from other entrepreneurship programs is that it goes further than the traditional concept of income generation. It combines both the practicalities of making money with the desire to create a better community by including topics such as environmentally and socially beneficial entrepreneurship and allows for connections and relationships to be created with private sector companies. It also gives the youth hands on experience in the sector they hope to integrate into. The peer training aspect is also a new idea which gives the youth a feeling of equality and openness that may not be felt when in traditional adult-youth training programs.
The beginning phase of the GPIEEP was the two-week intensive training program. One main trainer oversaw the training while peer trainers facilitated the small group activities and managed one on one support. The curricula involved the following subjects:
- Environmental education
- Environmental business opportunities identification
- Asset mapping/Self-evaluation
- Market research
- Financial management/Book-keeping
- Business plan creation
Forty two opportunities for internships were available from small, medium and big enterprises from both the profit and non profit sectors. Each intern had a supervisor who acted as their job shadow or mentor. Among these internship opportunities were specific trainings for selected participants that needed technical training for their business ideas. Youth were advised to take their business plans to their places of internship and work with their supervisors/mentors in completing them.
Every youth has commented on the effectiveness of this phase of the pilot project and would highly recommend it for the next round of training. They describe the internships as learning experiences in which they were able to see how businesses are run. They all expressed appreciation for the contacts and networks that they managed to make and all have agreed that they have used the skills they acquired during the internship since it has ended, either in a work environment or on a personal level. Market Testing
The third phase of the program was market testing. This involved the lending of a small amount of money to selected youth. The youth were selected based on their answers to questions from the trainers, their ability to describe their business plans, the preparedness of both the youth and their business plans and the viability of the business. The money was to be used for the initial start up of their businesses but not to sustain it if it turned out not to be a viable idea. There was also the clause in the agreement that if the money was repaid within a reasonable time, the funding could continue as a revolving supply until the youth was able to finance themselves, receive funding from another source or defaulted on repayment.
Another very important and significant part of the agreement was the condition that the youth themselves had to meet in order to prove to the trainers that they were serious about starting their business. Each youth had different conditions based on their business. For example, some youth were required to provide a list of orders for their products, others had to find proven anchor clients and still others were asked to explain and document how they would market their products to ensure success. As with the conditions, the amounts of money given to the youth were different depending on their businesses. For example, those youth who were required to show order forms had their orders filled; some of the youth that brought anchor clients were given enough raw materials to run their businesses for a week. It is also important to note that cash was not given to the youth but the products/materials they needed were bought for them to ensure that the money was used for the businesses. The final clause in the agreement involved the signature of a guarantor to make sure that EYA did not lose the money initially invested in the market testing phase.
Networking and partnerships continue to be created and progress has been made with companies such as Equity Bank, and these types of connections promise to be of mutual benefit for both the GPIEEP and the other stakeholders.
Though not all the youth put in the effort expected of them, all youth involved in the pilot project have achieved some level of success, whether through the business idea they brought in the initial stages, business ideas they arrived at during the project or businesses/projects that they are now able to start or continue as a result of the training they received through the GPI-EEP. There has also been an Environmental Entrepreneurship Manual developed for use in future EEPs.Challenges Faced by Youth Participants
- Lack of technical support in production and development of their products.
- Lack of legal services for example where they needed a lawyer’s support
- Getting anchor clients-this was an initial requirement by the programme that the youth bring anchor clients before they are given their loans.
- Many competitors
- Slow processing of documents by the government-some of the entrepreneurs are in the process of registering their businesses but it is taking too long.
- Lack of premises to do business
- Lack of funds to kick start the businesses
- Competitors offering competitive prices.
- Certification of products-Most of the major clients like supermarkets demand that one’s product has to be certified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards. The fee for certification is high for these new entrepreneurs.
- Multiplier effect: Youth participants have eagerly spread the knowledge they have learned with their families, friends and communities.
- Increased livelihoods: All youth participants have been positively influenced and have started their businesses, ameliorated existing businesses, increased their networks and developed new skills.
- Popularity: GPI-EEP has increased in popularity seen through the number of youth who have applied to the next phase. The networks and connections GPI-EEP has made have increased significantly and there is huge potential for future growth.