Youths have expressed mixed feelings regarding empowerment initiatives such as the Empower Bank fund.
ZANU (PF) national youth leader Tendai Chirau said he was impressed by the ability of the Empower Bank loan facility for backing up youths’ businesses and boosting entrepreneurship among youths in Zimbabwe.
Chirau said Zimbabwe was the first country in Africa to establish a loan facility specifically for the youths.
“The bank is there and is operational. This is one of the fruits of the new dispensation. As youth representatives, the issue of involving a bank that supports youth business enterprises is a welcome development because a lot of youths will also be able to benefit. This is entrepreneurship.
“We are happy with this bank. It shows that the new dispensation led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa is pro-youth because Zimbabwe is the first country in Africa to have a bank that is specifically meant to support youth enterprises,” said Chirau.
Chirau also expressed satisfaction in the flexibility of the bank’s operations while urging youths to take advantage of this facility.
“What is also good about the bank is that their conditions are flexible as compared to other micro institutions, so it is important that they go there and get more information from the bank. We are also enlightened that there is a youth starter pack which is now 24 months for repayment period than the previous one which was 12 months. This bank is for the youths and the youths must apply. Those who get the money are the people who get there and submit their bankable projects. They will get assisted. Youths must make use of it,” added Chirau.
Meanwhile, Chirau told this publication that the bank is facing challenges and is working flat out to further improve the bank’s flexibility.
Pride Mkono, a youth leader, said the funds available for youths at CABS and Empower Bank is a good initiative but most young people lack information on how these loans can be accessed. He bemoaned that it would appear that youths who are politically linked to the ruling party are the majority of beneficiaries which gives rise to concerns of nepotism and politicisation of the programme.
“There should be a devolved approach to the fund so that youths in marginalised communities outside Harare also benefit and there must be an independent body to vet eligible projects,” Mkono said.
Ms. Faith Mvududu, Award-Winning Impact Woman Collaborator 2021, Visionary Lily Blossom Academy Alumni and a Certified Mental Health First Aider, said the Youth Fund Established by the Government of Zimbabwe for the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts, and Recreation is a brilliant idea.
“However for most youths, the requirements for formal structures in their businesses may not be possible to submit as most of them work as sole traders. Only a handful actually has receipts showcasing their operations, except with the use of social media advertising which is informal trading. Most youths either stay with their parents or rent. To have utility bills from their landlords can prove to be a cumbersome journey to attain. This demotivates many from being beneficiaries of this brilliant initiative. If the requirements can be reviewed and less formal, it will benefit the majority of youths operating as informal sole traders.
“It is also my plea that the Government of Zimbabwe, in particular the Ministry of Finance, as well as well established Corporate Sector inject more funding towards this Initiative. I highly applaud the efforts of the Ministry of Youth. More can be done through collective efforts. In Unity is Development and in taking the first steps is the barriers broken to a new level of progress. As the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day,” Mvududu said.
The Empower Bank was established in 2018 and was designed to offer loans to support youths in business and youths intending to set up businesses.