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Youth-led entrepreneurship on the rise

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The Chronicle

Sikhulekelani Moyo, Business Chronicle
ZIMBABWE is seeing growth in youth-led entrepreneurship, which is helping the country create more job opportunities and diversify the economy.

This emerged during a meeting in Bulawayo last Friday between young business leaders and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Sport, Arts and Leisure.

Delegates were told that the growth of youth entrepreneurship has led to a significant increase in demand for business support from Empower Bank, as more young people seek to fulfill their economic potential.

Empower the Bank

Those present said that Empower Bank should receive more funding, review its terms and diversify its loan portfolio to ensure that all young people with strong business propositions are financially supported.

The bank was set up as a micro-banking unit by the government in 2018 to specifically support different youth initiatives to revive the economy.

Responding to questions from the floor, Empower Bank’s Head of Retail, Mrs. Betty Sibanda, said that she has so far approved 1,319 loans amounting to $57.2 million since 2018 for the sole Bulawayo province.

Loans

However, 52 loan applications failed to attract funding mainly due to lack of collateral, she said, citing the need for young entrepreneurs to cultivate the culture of loan repayment.

“A total of 1,371 loans have been applied for in Bulawayo province since the bank opened in 2018 and 1,319 have been approved and have been granted an amount of $57.2 million, Ms Sibanda said. .

“To be eligible for a loan, you need collateral and as a young person, anything movable is considered collateral, including livestock, televisions and laptops.”

Young people had previously expressed concern about difficulties in opening bank accounts and demanded greater decentralization of bank services to ensure prompt assistance to entrepreneurs.

Some suggested that the bank should step up its marketing efforts as it was feared that people in remote areas would not be aware of the financing available and what was needed to obtain it.

The youths also urged the bank to take strong measures to monitor those who benefited from the funding and ensure that they repay the money to enable others to benefit as well.

One of the young entrepreneurs, Freeman Murechu, said that since the bank was established in 2018, the number of young people who have benefited from the funding is worrying as many are still waiting for funding.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

“The president started the bank so that any young person who wants to start or grow their business can access bank funding,” he said.

Murechu said the low number of beneficiaries confirms that the bank has yet to meet the needs of young people.

Young people are engaged in different projects and what they need is to be able to turn their dreams into reality.

We want an organization that understands people’s issues,” he said.

The Chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee, Mathias Tongofa, said that from the questions raised by the youths, it was clear that the bank was not responding to customer demand.

He said the committee will present its report to Parliament so that the concerns raised by young people are taken into account.

“We started these hearings in Manicaland and from what we are getting, young people across the country are complaining that they are not getting the promised funding,” Tongofa said. — @SikhulekelaniM1