Mbabane: The Youth Enterprise and Revolving Fund (YERF) has financed 178 youth business loan applications valued at 10.2 million since September 2018.
This was disclosed by the YERF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bhekizwe Maziya. According to Maziya, from cycle one of Youth Fund Loan Applications in September 2018 to cycle 7 which is November 2020, the fund has been able to finance 178 business loans valued at E10.2 million which has been able to create a total of 490 employment opportunities.
Maziya also highlighted that on the recent cycles 6 and 7 which were in June and November respectively, the fund has disbursed a total of E1, 745 933 to 28 loan applications which were approved, creating 72 employment opportunities.
Despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maziya said the fund continued to process loans under the 7th cycle. He the fund continued to assist the youth whose applications were previously deferred, saying some re-submitted the missing documents and their loans were re-appraised. Maziya said the development of new products continued and training, coaching mentorship to the funded beneficiaries also continued.
Maziya said the fund observed that between cycle 6 and cycle 7 they continue to see males dominating as 70 percent of the funded loan applications were males while 30 percent were females.
According to Maziya, the Agricultural sector remains at the top of businesses funded, at 64 percent with 18 businesses followed by the Services sector at 14 percent with 4 businesses, Retail sector at 10 percent with 3 businesses while Manufacturing sector is at 7 percent with 2 businesses and Construction sector at 5 percent with only 1 business.
Maziya highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic made people think outside the box as they were seeing an improvement in terms of the applications being submitted. “We have seen some innovative ideas coming,” he said.
Maziya said however in the sectors of Hospitality, Engineering, and ICT no businesses were funded for cycles 6 and 7.
According to Maziya, the YERF will resume the conducting of Business Clinics in various Tinkhundla centers countrywide. Maziya said this is part of the capacity building program which is aimed at assisting the youth to better prepare their business plans for subsequent application to the Fund.
“On the 20th – 21st May, the Fund will be visiting Tinkhundla centers in the Hhohho and Lubombo region, while Manzini and Shiselweni region will be visited on the 26th – 28th May”.
Maziya encouraged the youth to attend these business clinics saying they will make it easier for them to go through the application process and develop financeable business plans.
He said as a Fund they have consistently observed the low success rate of the applicants and thus intervened through this program. Maziya highlighted that this was based on the statistics they have, they have identified the need to further strengthen the capacity building to the youth. He said the success rate of below 30 percent cumulatively and is a thorny issue to the Fund.
However, Maziya said the advent of Covid-19 has also forced the fund to start encouraging the youth to change their mindsets in selecting their businesses. Sectors such as ICT, agribusiness, manufacturing, tourism, health, sector since they have been identified as resilient and thus prioritized by many countries including Eswatini.
As a Fund, Maziya said they have begun to rationalize the sectors during loan appraisal and give priority to these sectors.