Youths in Zimbabwe have a chance to rewrite their narrative, cleansing themselves of a tainted identity. It had almost become a fact that when financial assistance in form of loans is extended to them, the percentage rate of repayment would be very low.
Now another opportunity has opened within the Youth Empower Bank where there are loans available, one hopes for a break from the past.
Recently, an official from the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation urged youths to apply for funding to start projects. While this may be a noble cause, there are key elements that need attention for this latest initiative to be in a way different from other flops of the past.
There must be due diligence in vetting the prospective borrowers, so as to ensure they do not divert funds to other uses beyond their business plans.
In past schemes, the country ended up reading stories on how others used the money to marry, buy cars and other acts of vanity.
It would be a tragedy if renewed efforts by Government are betrayed in the same manner. Maybe a change of approach would be the panacea to this financial dishonesty scourge.
The banks can come up with a mechanism where they pay for the components needed by the businesses that would have applied for funding, instead of releasing the money to them.
For instance, if a youthful baker wants funding it is better for them to approach the bank with invoices of the machinery they need to get their business going and the bank makes the payment.
This will help reduce the threat of dishonesty which currently makes any prediction of success difficult even with the new Youth Empower Bank loans.
Although the youths have to be sincere in their treatment of the opportunity, the Youth Empower Bank may also need to enhance their efforts in communicating their existence and what they have to offer.
There are many who do not have an idea that the bank exists or if they are eligible to get financing.
Maybe a demystification drive would be necessary to get youths even in the remotest of places to understand that there is a facility they can utilise to bring their ideas to life.
Youth Empower Bank should break the tradition where institutions wait for those seeking funding to reach out. The fact that since its launch they have only managed to attract 600 loans should be a cause of serious concern for everyone involved with it.
Places like Glen View 8 home industry should be their fishing pond where they identify young people who built their operations from scratch and now have decent businesses running.
Besides just calling people to come and borrow, the bank should go the extra mile in teaching business methods to some of the youths who run small and medium enterprises. There are many who have the brains to come up with brilliant innovations, but the industrial tact needed to stay afloat may be lacking.
The Youth Empower Bank should be identifying those people and helping them understand the intricacies of the corporate world which is to a degree complex.
It should be a rule that those who get access to the funds, should undergo compulsory financial literacy training to ensure that the money will be put to good use.
Over 65 percent of Zimbabwe's population is youth and this makes them a demographic of interest as far as the country's future is concerned.
But the above statistic will remain a number used in essays if the youths do not clean up their act as far as financial accountability is concerned.
Over the years, we have seen the launching and re-launching of similar projects because the first beneficiaries would have failed to remit what was expected of them.
That culture has to break if Zimbabwe is to gain anything meaningful from its youth dividend.
Now is the time to ensure empowerment schemes are structured to survive in the long term.
We need to redefine youth empowerment in the context of Vision 2030 and create self-sustaining systems that allowed continued benefit.
Zimbabwe needs a scandal-free youth empowerment scheme for once and the Youth Empower Bank loans are a good place to start.
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