Influence of youth empowerment programs on National development: a case of Uwezo Youth Fund in Vihiga county, Kenya
The purpose of the study was to investigate the influence of youth empowerment programs on national development in Vihiga County. The specific objectives of the study were: to establish the influence of financial sustainability on national development in Vihiga County; to assess the extent to which credit facilitation influences national development in Vihiga County; to determine the extent market linkage influence national development in Vihiga County and to establish the influence of capacity building on national development in Vihiga County. Descriptive survey research design was used. The target population for this study was 129,790 youths in Vihiga County. A sample size of 384 for the youth was considered adequate. The study adopted purposive sampling technique so as to target a particular group, in selecting respondents with rich cases for in depth analysis related to the central issues being studied. Questionnaire was used as the research instruments. Data obtained was analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively using SPSS. The questionnaire return rate was 84.90% which was considered reasonable enough for statistical generalizations. The study found out that the respondents operate small scale business ventures mainly for maintenance. Thus, such businesses earn only small profits which make it hard to realize business expansion. They also experience limited growth in market share. Moreover, the businesses do not get steady cash flow. Given that they operate in ever changing environment, they end up spending more funds than planned for in the budget as supported by 82.2% of the respondents. The study revealed that the respondents mainly form groups to operate joint ventures (85.89%) due to the fact that they are funded by Uwezo funds which mainly work with youth and women groups through table banking. The study found that Uwezo fund has empowered the respondents to become more independent given that they can now afford decent meals, pay rent, support their families and have some gainful employment. Most of the businesses got more than 12,000 profits monthly as supported by 77.6%. However, when the profit is distributed among members barely go beyond sh.1000. Only 3.1% of the respondents got more than sh.7000. 88.6% of the respondents concurred that most businesses are similar which resulted in stiff competition. The study also revealed that the staff shared information on the registration of businesses, business training opportunities, and available market opportunities including available tenders. Based on the findings, the study recommends that the entrepreneurs in this county should scan the environment for other business opportunities currently untapped. The grace period for the repayment of the Uwezo Fund loan should be increased to allow the young entrepreneurs to establish their business ventures. In addition, the government should help the young entrepreneurs expand their markets by creating more market linkages. The study suggests that more research be carried on the influence of management skills on the utilization of the Uwezo Fund and the impact of Uwezo Fund on the social life of the young entrepreneurs.