This week Zimbabwe joined the rest of Africa in commemorating Africa Youth Day at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) on Wednesday November 16.
This day is usually celebrated across the continent on November 1, and this year’s commemorations marked the fifth Africa Youth Day. Young people from around Zimbabwe came from all walks of life to celebrate this day and participate in a Youth Indaba.
In line with this year’s theme, “Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development”, the highlight of the event was the launch of the Old Mutual Youth Empowerment Fund for young Zimbabweans.
The Zimbabwe Youth Council (ZYC ) and Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment have secured $11 million for youth empowerment and development from Old Mutual through the indigenisation programme.
$1 million will be used to capacitate the Youth ministry, to assess, monitor projects and train young people.
This fund will see the facilitation of business support loans for young people in all provinces through CABS.
As the issue of collateral is widely debated, young people will be assessed on the viability of their business plans, as not all young people have substantial collateral at present.
Various youth stakeholders, corporate representative and government representatives were also present at the unveiling, with Vice-President Joice Mujuru officially launching the fund, as the guest of honour.
The launch of this fund comes at time where the nation is facing employment challenges, with high levels of unemployment and economic instability.
Rather than young people spending their energy causing havoc, participating in crime, sitting idle and economically paralysed, the hope is to empower young people, diverting their energy to accelerate and foster development in the country thereby contributing to the development of the continent.
Old Mutual CEO Luke Ngwerume stated, “the fund will help contribute to reconstruction and development of the country” as youth are enterprising, innovative and dynamic and should be able to make the most of it.
Ngwerume called for the funds to be widespread, and the importance of clear governance and control.
“We want to see the funds grow . . . young people be ready to play your part,” emphasised Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Saviour Kasukuwere.
Kasukuwere would also like to see the Finance Ministry making decisions in the interest of the youth.
With regard to the upcoming budget, the ZYC chairman Hamilton Pazvakavambwa said, “If the budge is not for youth, it should not be read at all.”
Development will take place with dialogue between young people and government and stakeholders.
To highlight this, one youth representative used the expression “anything without us, for us, is not for us”.
This was strongly supported by VP Mujuru who expressed how such dialogue helps government know the concerns of the youth and include youth in youth policy making decisions.
This will help government make informed decision about the youth, rather than making decisions without the voice of the youth.
Mujuru also discouraged various stakeholders from stealing business proposals brought forward by the youth, and passing them off as their own, also stating the need to for youth to respect debts when the loans have been approved.
Finally comments from a visiting speaker, chairperson of the National Youth Development Agency in South Africa, Andile Lungisa said, “young people must be able to pay back the money to keep the fund alive for years to come – to keep young people alive.”
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