The Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) has recruited 580 additional staff to expedite loan disbursement and boost funds uptake by entrepreneurs. The youth financier said it will now take less than a month for applicants to access funds after the vetting system upgrade. Previously it used to take about two months. "It will now take a maximum of 30 days down from up to three months for applicants to have their loans processed. The exercise has been slow in the past due to less staffing and inefficiency," YEDF board chairman Gor Semelang'o told the Business Daily , adding that the workforce had been trained afresh. Two recruits will be sent to each of the 290 constituencies, supplementing the work of 60 officials at the fund's Nairobi head office. The changes will enable youths to bid for State contracts without fear of failing to perform if they won because of delays in releasing funds. Mr Semelang'o said delays had made entrepreneurs opt for expensive loans from banks instead of cheaper ones from the fund. Bank loans are offered at interest rates of 17 per cent on average compared to 8.5 per cent from the fund. About 19,000 enterprises apply for funds from YEDF per year despite its capacity to support 100, 000 new applications annually. The fund is holding Sh3 billion for lending to young entrepreneurs and another Sh5.5 billion has been lend on a revolving basis. READ: Youth funds ready for disbursement The bulk of these applications are filed manually, but the fund is promoting online applications via its website in order to cut costs. "We have since made our website user friendly. Applicants should download the respective forms, fill them out and submit them from any part of the country," said Mr Semelang'o. At the moment, Sh3 billion awaits to be claimed by youth while a further Sh5.5 billion is in circulation on a revolving basis. The fund's loans range between Sh50,000 and Sh400,000 for group-based enterprises payable after a six-month grace period. Individuals are entitled to between Sh100,000 and Sh2 million under the Vuka product. The State-backed agency recently created sector specific funds to enable youths venture into the arts, agribusiness and public transport sector. Youth empowerment The agency is considering transforming youth empowerment centres into office space to be leased to budding entrepreneurs at subsidised rates. "We plan to refurbish and equip these centres with office facilities including computers and the internet at a cost of Sh1 billion to spare young entrepreneurs the hassles of securing office space," Mr Semelang'o said. The 157 centres were established by the then Ministry of Youth Affairs in 2008 for boosting growth of start-ups alongside talent nurturing among young people. In the arrangement, young people will pay for office space at subsidised rates which will see them share services such as communication and addresses to reduce traditional office costs — rent and utility bills. "The concept is largely targeted at start-ups which would be expected to step out after finding stamina to pave way for others," noted Mr Semelang'o. The move to reduce loan application time came after entrepreneurs expressed frustrations at being bypassed in State tenders.
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