Youth Empowerment Fund Timely Remedy

THE Ministry of Youth and Sport has for the past few years been administering the Youth Empowerment Fund in a bid to create an enabling environment for Zambians in that age-group.

This has seen the Government parting away with several millions of the taxpayers’ money to empower the deserving youths with entrepreneurship skills.

This also helps lower the unemployment levels among the youth in the country. The funding to the deserving youths has seen the Government officials go round the country presenting cheques to various youth groups.

This column has been of the view that the Government should document some of the achievements this empowering programme has made and showcase the industrial revolution in some of the businesses founded or enhanced through this taxpayer’s money. Therefore, the announcement of turning the Youth Empowerment Fund into a bank as announced by the Minister of youth and Sport Chishimba Kambwili in Kabwe recently is a step in the right direction.

The idea is welcome and points in a direction of mature handling of the taxpayer’s money.

We know how the bank operates and its ethics of handling the money in its coffers. I would, therefore, like to laud this plan by the Government as it comes at the right time.

We know that a person who goes to borrow money from the bank carries on the shoulders the responsibility of repaying the money, failure to which stern measures will be used to recover the money. If properly handled the bank could serve as a revolving fund which will see several youths access the fund from the bank.

As it is now, the ministry has failed to administer the revolving fund because it is not professionally run as a bank to systematically recover the borrowed funds.

It is actually painful to realise that the huge sums of money lent out to several youth entrepreneurs is not recovered. Slowly the funds are not channelled to the next youth who is waiting to use the money. In Zambia today the money which is perceived to come from the Government is seen as a grant even when the borrower knows that it is supposed to be paid back as a loan.

There is, therefore, no doubt that if the ministry introduces a youth bank it will overcome these challenges because it will be professionally run as a commercial bank for youth loans. I know for the minister to make such a pronouncement it is because he has sat down with his team and realises that a youth bank is ideal for handling the taxpayer’s money.

The minister should rest assured that all well-meaning Zambians would rally fully behind this idea because the decision makes business sense.

The Government should take an example from the transformed Pulse Financial Services Limited (PFSL) which is currently trading as Entrepreneur Financial Centre (EFC).

It started as a project known as Care Zambia Project and after going through challenges in its operations of lending out money as a care project to small businesses and was unable to fully recover its money lent out, it has transformed itself into a successful centre.

The is helping a lot of small businesses not only by lending out money as it is now a registered deposit undertaking and operates savings accounts for most of its members.

The centre has a robust programme of its loan recoveries and boasts of professionalism in the way it is run.

I sympathise with the Government as I know that it is in a hurry to create employment among the youth, but it is also important that the funds given out to youth groups should be put to good use.

If that is done the results should cheer the taxpayers and everyone otherwise pumping money in the bottomless pit will not be beneficial to the country in the long-run. Once again the introduction of the youth bank will be the best option in administering the current Youth Empowerment Fund. As a nation we should learn through mistakes.

Source : The Times of Zambia

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