Youth fund: where has the money gone?

The distribution pattern of the youth empowerment fund has been described as proof there are a lot of underhand dealings in the administration of the money.

Alois Mhembere said given the capital, he had the potential to expand his business of selling airtime, chips, drinks and biscuits because he was now an experienced vendor.
Alois Mhembere said given the capital, he had the potential to expand his business of selling airtime, chips, drinks and biscuits because he was now an experienced vendor.

Several youths who spoke to The Zimbabwean said the distribution of the funds continued to be shrouded in mystery, alleging that youths from provinces such as Matabeleland North, South and Masvingo were being side-lined.

Youth Forum, a non-profit making organisation that seeks to enhance participation and empowerment of youths in policy dialogue and political decision making said every young Zimbabwean had a right to benefit from the fund.

In its latest ‘Report on the Performance of Youth Empowerment Facilities and Youth Development Fund for the period 2009- 2013’, the youth ministry said 1,782 youths had benefitted from the fund from 2009 to 2012.

Figures released showed that the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe disbursed $745,900 over four years in 10 provinces. Matabeleland North received $5,000 for 16 individuals; and 45 youths from Matabeleland South received $13,500. But 744 applicants in Harare scooped $384,850 during the same period.

The government put together the public facility for youths to finance their projects after it became clear that they lacked the necessary collateral security to qualify for normal business loans.

The fund was supposed to allow access to credit for young people at banking institutions, such as CABS, CBZ Bank Limited, Infrastructural Development Bank of Zimbabwe, Stanbic and Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group.

Tafadzwa Gochera (30) from Checheche in Chipinge said youths in the rural areas suffered from their geographical location and hardly benefitted from the initiative. “For the majority of the young people who are not active in politics, we get nothing,” he said.

ZINASU Secretary for Gender Affairs, Johanna Mamombe said youth empowerment should be inclusive. “In most cases, young girls are side-lined because of their sex. A deeper analysis of the beneficiaries will show that the majority of those who got the funds are young men despite the fact that there are more women than men,” she said.

Alois Mhembere said if given the opportunity, he would be a successful business person because of his experience as a vendor in the last three years. “We will die as paupers because they do not want to give an opportunity to us to shine,” he said.

Of the $10 million CABS Kurera/ Ukondla Youth Fund, latest statistics revealed that 2,388 youths benefitted after the disbursement of $3,594,920 for the period 2012-2013.

Bulawayo province received the least allocation — only 120 youths received $178,500 — while 378 youths from Manicaland got $678,300.

Avoid Masiraha said there was a culture within Zimbabwean society to personalise national processes and align them to political parties. “There is no transparency or accountability on how public funds are utilised,” he said. As a result, the majority were reluctant even to try to get support from the fund.

The Chief Technical Advisor for the International Labour Organisation in Zimbabwe, Khaliq Manzoor, said: “Such programmes require a comprehensive approach where investment is not only the provision of capital but also of training, capacity building, monitoring mechanisms and evaluation of how to improve on weaknesses.

“Youths need training in business management and they need to be linked with micro-finance organisations to help them expand their businesses. The success story of our recent initiative shows that such initiatives have the potential to be successful,” said Manzoor.

The youth ministry blamed the lack of funds for its failure to monitor the use of the money and the causes of the relatively low repayment rates from the beneficiaries.

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