20 December 2012

Zambia: Youths Pick Up the Slack

IN a country where entrepreneurial and development opportunities lie in abundance, in terms of natural resources and vast land, the challenges being faced by the youth still seem to sideline the younger generation from progressing and making that positive impact for Zambia.

The ever energetic and strong Zambian youth today is thirsty for that breakthrough either in education, business or in the world of entertainment.

It is no secret that the Zambian youth has been itching for that time when they would be counted as people making that positive contribution in society.

It is against this background that this column will endeavour to discuss issues that would help enlighten, educate and inspire youths to take the challenge and be counted.

I am usually not the kind of person who likes showering praises on every Jim and Jack - even when what they have done is good. I find myself saying that no matter what good somebody does, they owe it to themselves and maybe to God. After all, people don't lose anything by doing well to others.

However, the vigour and passion that Minister of Youth and Sport, Chishimba Kambwili has exhibited towards working with youths and helping them come out of their doldrums merits some encouragement.

This sign of philanthropy towards the youth by the minister has somehow challenged my theory about not commending people who are doing fine works for the goodness of others.

Some two months ago, Honourable Kambwili announced the Youth Development Fund (YDF) that the Patriotic Front (PF) Government had set aside for youths countrywide. The minister declared that K11.8 billion was waiting in the coffers for youth projects in all the 10 provinces for projects designed by youths and run by youths themselves.

What impressed me most was the ministry's adherence to the deadlines that were set for the distribution of application forms, the time the forms were supposed to hit the provincial permanent secretaries' offices nationwide and the respect and fulfillment of what was enshrined in the YDF manual guide.

Successful candidates, particularly on the Copperbelt, were not just given the funds they had applied for but were also guided on how best they should handle the money in line with their projects indicated in the business-plan designed application forms.

The Ministry of Youth and Sport also assured that those who did not qualify for this initial funding of 2012 still had a chance to access the funding provided that their applications were improved upon.

During the MMD government, I was among those who had applied for this type of funding. Honestly, I had no confidence in such type of empowerment funds; for me this was just another fallacy roving around nepotism.

Not only was it difficult to get the funding but it proved to be a challenge even to know what was happening with one's application because there was no proper handling of applications....let alone of the fund itself.

In the end, youths who managed to have a share of the fund also failed to manage it. According to records, of the K4.1 billion Youth Development Fund given out last year under the MMD, only about K1.7 billion has been recovered so far.

When the foundation of anything seems rocky, the ending is always disastrous.

By training, guiding and cautioning applicants about the consequences of misapplying and embezzling the grant and failing to pay back the loans, I believe youths who got the monies this time, under the PF, will do their level best in making certain that their projects are a success so as to be able to pay back.

Now youths should know that the beauty about paying back the loans lies in not just avoiding the consequences of not doing so, but also in the fact that others would also get the opportunity to access the same funding. Remember, this is a revolving fund that every youth with a project worth its salt deserves to get hold of.

Mr Kambwili's ministry I believe has put in place stringent measures and strategies to help all successful candidates succeed with their projects. On the other hand I know there are also stringent measures in place to ensure that every penny dished out is recovered for the continuation of this noble agenda.

I want to encourage my fellow youths that the success of every nation starts with you. The projects that you are planning or have already embarked on can greatly add to our ever improving economy. What you may have as a small idea today would end up as a big thing tomorrow.

The onus is on us to nourish, protect and make those projects work. All the beautiful things created by men around you started as small ideas with even fewer resources than you. Let us take our Zambia to another level.

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