Zimbabwe: Women Development Fund Bounces Back

WOMEN entrepreneurs can now access funding to boost their operations after the Government has reintroduced the Women Development Fund to support the sector.

The facility, which is a revolving fund, was established in 2010 but stopped some years ago after it was marred by high defaulting rate.

Women Affairs, Community and Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Dr Sithembiso Nyoni, confirmed the move saying through her ministry, the Government has revived the fund and that eligible women entrepreneurs could receive a maximum of $400 000 loans.

"In terms of the total budget of the fund l don't have the figures with me here right now, but we are able to give $400 000 per group," she told Business Chronicle in an interview.

"The funds will be disbursed as soon as possible, as people start applying. This fund was established in 2010 and there was a time when Parliament stopped it because women were not paying back the loans."

Dr Nyoni said when the new dispensation came into power on 2017, the Government quickly put in place new systems to reduce the loan default rate.

"Parliament then agreed that it resumes like you're seeing. We are advertising and making sure that women who really qualify take the money," she said.

According to a public notice seen by this paper regarding the fund, Bulawayo has started calling for proposals from viable women projects for funding of up to a maximum of ZWL$400 000.

The projects should be in sectors such as agriculture, tourism, mining, manufacturing and or service sectors.

"A total of 75 percent of the money disbursed goes to the supplier of the required equipment or items while 25 percent will be given as cash to the group for operational use," reads part of the notice.

Applicants for funding are required to produce respective group constitution, project proposal, proof of residence of each member, next of kin details of each member and quotations from three different suppliers.

In addition, prospective beneficiaries are expected to produce certified copies of national identity documents for each member, supporting documents such as proof of markets and a loan application form, which the group will fill in at the Ministry of Women Affairs offices.

The Zimbabwe Women Microfinance Bank has also been on a countrywide drive to empower women with assets they can use for income generation projects.

SMEs have over the years been contributing significantly to the country's gross domestic product although most have taken a nose dive from the national lockdown imposed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Dr Nyoni is on record saying it was important to support female-run SMEs as empowering them meant families were well taken care of.

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