By Hamdi M.Buthul
Cooperatives and MSME Development Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui on Thursday presided over the inauguration of the Uwezo Fund Oversight Board, marking a significant milestone in the government’s commitment to empowering women, youth, and persons with disabilities through Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
Speaking during the inaugural meeting at the Fund’s headquarters at Lonrho House, Nairobi, Chelugui emphasized the primary objective of the Board, which is to promote financial inclusivity by ensuring that the Uwezo Fund reaches its target beneficiaries.
He called upon the Board to provide diligent guidance to steer the Fund to greater heights.
Acknowledging the careful process of setting up the Board, the CS highlighted the importance of staggered appointments for succession management, ensuring continuity in the Fund’s operations.
The Cabinet Secretary commended the newly appointed members of the Uwezo Fund Board and emphasized the critical nature of the inaugural meeting, which aimed to align the Board’s programs and activities with the government’s strategic direction.
Chelugui reminded the Board of its mandate grounded in the principles of the Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA), with a focus on enhancing financial inclusion and promoting MSMEs for vulnerable populations.
Recognizing the pivotal role of MSMEs in job creation and economic expansion, he highlighted the Kenya Kwanza transformation plan as a testament to the government’s determination to create a more favorable environment for MSMEs to thrive.
The CS provided impressive statistics on the Fund’s impact since its inception, including disbursing funds to over a million individuals, providing training to thousands of groups on entrepreneurship skills, and supporting access to markets and linkages.
Furthermore, Chelugui emphasized the importance of adaptation in an ever-changing global economic landscape.
He urged the Board to stay informed about emerging trends and align the Fund’s priorities with government focus areas, including the development of loan products and business support services in key industries.
Chelugui at the same time underscored the significance of digital transformation in driving economic growth and development.
The CS called upon the Board to complete the digitalization process and align their strategies with the government development agenda.
Chairperson of the Uwezo Fund Oversight Board Ms. Ann Njuguna, emphasized the organization’s commitment to forging strategic partnerships for the long haul.
The Chair outlined a vision to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the Fund’s processes and programs through automation, signaling a significant step towards modernization.
Speaking on behalf of the Fund the Chair stressed the importance of working closely with the Ministry to serve the people of Kenya with dedication and integrity.
“This collaborative approach is seen as crucial in achieving the Fund’s goals and making a positive impact on communities across the country,” said Njuguna.
Njuguna also expressed a clear objective to shift the narrative surrounding job creation in Kenya.
“Rather than simply seeking employment opportunities, the Uwezo Fund is determined to empower individuals to become job creators themselves. By providing access to financial resources and support, the Fund aims to foster a culture of entrepreneurship and self-sustainability,” she noted.
Furthermore, the Chair highlighted the role of the Fund in promoting responsible financial practices.
“By facilitating loan repayments through laundry services, the Uwezo Fund aims to not only bolster the repayment process but also encourage a culture of saving among beneficiaries. This innovative approach is expected to have a positive ripple effect on the financial well-being of individuals and families involved,” she added.