Influence of Business Networking On Entrepreneurship Development Among Uwezo Funded Youth Groups in Kitui County, Kenya
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The Kenyan government, in line with the Medium-Term Plan of Vision 2030, has chosen to support start-up and growth of youth enterprises by providing enabling environment and support programmes that develop the sector. The Uwezo Fund’s objectives are to provide on-lending to the youth enterprises, attract and facilitate investment in micro, small and medium oriented commercial infrastructure, support youth-oriented micro, small and medium enterprises to develop linkages with large enterprises and facilitate marketing of products and services of youth enterprises both in domestic and international markets. The Fund also provides Business Development Services to youth enterprise. However, it remains unknown, the extent to which these initiatives have succeeded in addressing the funding and support challenges faced by youth in Kenya. This study examined the influence of business networking on entrepreneurship development among Uwezo funded youth groups in Kitui County, Kenya. The specific objectives of the study were: to establish the influence of network actors, network links, network flows and network mechanisms on entrepreneurship development among youth owned small and medium enterprises. The study was anchored on the social networking theory, stochastic model, static theory of business growth, theory of stages development, and the resource-based view theory. This study adopted a descriptive research design. The target population was 336 youth group leaders from the Uwezo Funded youth-owned small and medium sized enterprises in Kitui County. Stratified random sampling technique was used in selecting a sample size of 102 respondents. The study used both primary and secondary data. Primary data was collected by use of semi-structured questionnaires; the questionnaires included structured and unstructured questions. The questionnaires were administered by use of a drop off and pick up later method while secondary data was obtained from Uwezo Fund reports and group financial statements. Statistical Package for Social Sciences was used to analyze the quantitative data. Further, quantitative data was analyzed by use of descriptive and inferential statistics. Descriptive statistics such as mean, frequencies, standard deviation and percentages were computed. Quantitative data results were presented in tables and figures. Qualitative data was analyzed using textual analysis and the results were presented using narrations (in prose form). The study found that network actors somehow influenced entrepreneurship development of Uwezo funded youth groups. The study found that network links did not have a significant positive influence on entrepreneurship development among Uwezo funded youth groups. Network flows did not have a significant positive influence on entrepreneurship development among Uwezo funded youth groups. The study also established that network mechanisms did not have a significant positive influence on entrepreneurship development among Uwezo funded youth groups in Kitui County. From the findings, it was recommended that Uwezo fund management should consider organizing sensitization meetings for group leaders on how to identify and work with network actors, consider designing appropriate training programs to youth group leaders for the purpose of increasing the awareness of the importance of network links for entrepreneurship development. Youth group members should be encouraged to use entrepreneurial networks to gather noble business information through network flows. The Government of Kenya should regulate the channel of communication so as to obtain external and internal linkages to share business information more often. Further research should be undertaken to examine other contributors to entrepreneurship development and in other counties as well. The findings could be useful to government of Kenya agencies involved in the management of youth funds as they can be guided on what to capture while reviewing or developing policies related to the role of business networking factors on entrepreneurship development.