Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
THE Government has come up with a modified and simplified way of distributing the new $10 million youth fund launched last month with the money being distributed at constituency level with each constituency expected to be allocated
$45 000 to accommodate more youths and spread beneficiaries.
In addition, said the Minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Empowerment, Patrick Zhuwao, the Localised Empowerment Acceleration Facility (Leaf) fund will also target youths whose parents are working in the country’s security sector and those who have undergone skills training programmes in various sectors.
In a wide ranging interview on Wednesday on the sidelines of the 10th Sizinda Vocational Training Centre graduation ceremony in Bulawayo, Minister Zhuwao said measures have also been put in place to ensure that punitive measures were taken against those who defaulted on loans disbursed under the Kurera/Ukondla Youth Empowerment Fund over the last four years.
“Each of the 210 constituencies will be allocated $45 000,” said Minister Zhuwao.
Previously the youth funds were distributed according to the country’s 10 provinces.
“The criteria of accessing the Leaf fund will be based on many things. Firstly, part of the criteria is going to be opened to those that have accessed biggest facilities under the Youth Development and Employment Creation Fund and then paid back,” he said.
Minister Zhuwao said the second criteria will focus on those youths who had undergone training on how to start and manage businesses and then thirdly to those who have got support from their local communities.
He said the Leaf fund would also open a special window to cater for security forces’ children and youths that would have undergone the Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment’s training programmes.
“We also provide two special windows within the Leaf fund. One of the special windows that will provide Leaf fund is what we call the legacy window. This is a fund that recognises the work that is done by our Defensive Security Forces and is available for the descendants or children of our Defensive Security Forces. We are working on the assumptions that these children are disciplined primarily because their parents are within disciplined units of our society,” Minister Zhuwao said.
He said the second window, which would be known as the youth alumina window, would provide loans to youths that would have undergone the ministry’s training programmes such as Start and improve your business, Integrated Skills Outreach Programme (Isop) among others.
Minister Zhuwao said the way the Leaf loan facility had been crafted and the criteria to be used in disbursing the fund would ensure that all its beneficiaries manage to pay back.
Over 70 percent of loans disbursed under the youth fund in the past four years have not been repaid, prejudicing the Government of millions of dollars.
The loans were being disbursed under the Youth Development Fund launched by Government in 2006 as a revolving fund.
The projects managed by IDBZ were classified under the Isop, General Fund and Meikles Fund which were funded to the tune of $500 000 after re-launch in 2009.
The Meikles fund accounted for $200 000 of which half was yet to be disbursed.
“We are engaging the financial institutions. We have requested them first and foremost to provide us with information on who accessed the facility and who paid, so that we know the beneficiaries whom we really want to promote further.
“Secondly, we are also asking the financial institutions to write to those that have not yet paid to remind them to pay and if they are not in a position to pay they must come forward with payment plans,” Minister Zhuwao said.
He said youths who fail to pay back loans risked being blacklisted and fail to conduct any financial transaction at any financial institution upon the setting up of a Credit Reference Bureau (CRB).
A CRB is an establishment that collects and compiles data regarding the solvency, character, responsibility, and reputation of a particular individual or business in order to furnish such information to subscribers, in the form of a report, allowing them to evaluate the financial stability of the subject.
“If they don’t come with payment plans we would be engaging other measures to ensure that they do pay and one thing that everybody who has accessed the facility of the Youth Fund and not paid must be aware of is that the Ministry of Finance is in the process of drafting a Credit Reference Bill, which will end up with some of our young people being blacklisted. As a Minister responsible for the youths I need to safeguard our young people from being blacklisted and I think it’s within their interest to make sure they make payment plans,” Minister Zhuwao said.
He said the Ministry was in the process of setting up VTCs in every district in the country as it seeks to equip youths with livelihood skills which would enable them to earn a decent living.
Presently there are 42 VTCs in the country. However, Matabeleland North has no such facility despite the fact that it is most needed there as the province has a deplorable academic pass rate of below 10 percent.
“As a Ministry we intend to establish a VTC in each and every district of the province. We acknowledge that the VTC for Matabeleland North was meant to be at Kamativi but the mining operations are going to restart there, which therefore means we have to move that VTC. We are still working on the Umguza VTC. We are moving towards making sure that we have a VTC for each and every district,” Minister Zhuwao said.
Matabeleland North provincial head in the Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, Mr Buthumuzi Ngwenya said it was of paramount importance for VCTs with a bias towards comparative economic activities of the selected area to be set up so as to improve the livelihoods of communities.
“It’s disadvantaging youths considering that Matabeleland North has one of the lowest pass rates at Ordinary Level. We really need a VTC in all the districts that are related in economic activities taking place there.
“If one is in Lupane, we are talking about a VTC which specialises in carpentry because the resource is easily accessible there, Umguza, it should be horticulture as it is a predominantly cropping area, in Bubi one will be talking about a VTC attached to the Zimbabwe School of Mines because there are mining activities there,” Mr Ngwenya said.
A total of 272 youths graduated in hairdressing, hotel and catering, travel and tourism, fitting and turning, diesel plant fitting, plumbing, boiler making, carpentry and joinery, clothing technology, home decor, motor mechanics, electrical systems, house wiring and electronics.