23 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Youth Fund Not Political


Accurate are the thoughts that suggest that necessity is the mother of all development while assumption is the mother of all missed opportunities. Looking at the high misinterpretations surrounding the Youth Development Fund and its potential to change young people's lives and create jobs. One has to approach the matter objectively and with an open mind.

Over and above offering youth the opportunity to participate in our economy, the youth development fund is an effort by government to raise entrepreneurs, create jobs and promote skills development among young Zimbabweans. The Kurera/Ukondla Youth Development Fund over the past year it has been in existence has so far Spend close to Five Million US Dollars as at January 4 2013.

The Spending has been spread over different projects in different sectors across all the ten provinces.

The Kurera/Ukondla Capacity Building Program is an initiative under the Youth Fund being coordinated by Zimbabwe Youth Council supported by Old Mutual and The Ministry of Youth Development Indigenisation and Empowerment with a purpose of creating a national capacity among the youth in the area of business skills and technical skills through training. Envisaged result for this process is an enhanced skills base for young people so they can better manage and grow their business enterprises, re-pay their loans and become productive contributors to the Zimbabwean economy.

The Capacity Building program is being catered for under a US one million dollar budget, which includes business and technical skills training, mentorship and market linkages. Other resources that have come through under the programme include motor vehicles for provincial reach, as well as technical equipment for data collection and collation.

Boost Fellowship has been brought on board as the implementing partner for the program; other technical partners that have also come on board, includes Irvine's Chickens and Profeeds (Poultry), Pedstock Investments (Horticulture) and the Pig Industry Board (Piggery), The University of Zimbabwe, as well as trainers from different Ministry of Youth Vocational Training Centres. Technical topics also include Cattle Fattening and Mushroom Growing.

The partnership with technical trainers has been that which delivers through a program which is three phased, which include basic business skills training, technical skills training as well as mentoring and market linkages. Key topics involved are, Introduction to Entrepreneurship, Identification of Business Opportunities in various industry sectors, Developing Effective Business Plans, and Ensuring Sustainability of the business.

Selected candidates from across provinces have been young people whose proposals were identified as having potential but required refining. To date close to 800 young people representing over a 1000 projects have passed through the Capacity Building Programme and the training setup has been in a form of an intensive 5-day workshop that is held at a local Vocational Training Centre.

Despite its success stories The Youth Fund has had its own challenges that have slowed down the rate of service delivery and loan disbursements in general however some of the sticking points have since been resolved. The major challenge in terms of the holdup has been the overwhelming response from youths across the country. It is of the essence that I highlight the fact that the Kurera Ukondla Youth Fund in particular is not able to put money in the hands of ever young Zimbabwean.

That is just not possible considering that youth constitute close to 70 perecent of our countries population as per the recent census. What is tangible and realistic however under the fund is an empowerment process that has gradually built up over the past year; supporting young people startup their enterprise.

In my own interpretation the Youth Development Fund comes in so many different forms really and involves different banks such as the Stanbic Bank Wealth Creation Fund, IDBZ Youth Fund and the CBZ Youth Fund. It is not structured and has not been administered in a way that guarantees every applicant funding upon submission or discriminates using any criteria whatsoever but seeks to challenge the innovativeness and creativity in young people in coming up with bankable proposals that can create jobs in the process. Benchmarking with the South African Umsobomvu Youth Fund; Umsobomvu which is a Nguni word that means "a rising dawn".

The fund was established in January 2001 with a mandate to create a platform for job creation, skills development and transfer for South Africa's young people. The fund's activities are spread across three programmes which are Contact, information and counseling; Skills development and transfer and youth entrepreneurship programme. The Funds cannot be manipulated by an individual or a single organisation but it is a government project that ensures young people from otherwise disadvantaged backgrounds are supported and empowered.

As the Umsobomvu Youth Fund is being used as an avenue with which the youth can benefit and find a way to participate in a way in the South Africa's Black Economic Empowerment Policy ( BEE ), here at home our Kurera Ukondla Youth Fund is also an avenue by which young people who may not be able to afford shares on the stock exchange can also benefit from the Indigenisation Policy.

Innocent Katsande is the Communications Officer for Zimbabwe Youth Council.

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