BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
EMPOWERBANK has to date disbursed over $1,2 million in loans to young entrepreneurs across the country with another $4 million in applications still under consideration, the bank’s board chairman Raymond Njanike has said.
The bank, which was launched by government last year to support various youth initiatives, is capitalised to the tune of US$12,5 million.
“To date, the bank has disbursed above $1,2 million loans, and the loan book is largely skewed towards agriculture given that our country is an agro-based economy. Added to that, the bank has a total value of about $4,3 million loan applications under various stages of the evaluation process,” Njanike said at the official opening of the Bulawayo branch on Tuesday.
“This is comprised largely of value-chain financing and other schemes. We urge all youths to throng the bank’s branches with their applications for projects and business loans. EmpowerBank is the bank for the youths. Please use it for your economic empowerment. The bank offers products such as savings and loans,” he added.
On collateral, Njanike said they had various flexible collateral measures in place to ensure that youths were not disqualified based on lack of collateral.
“We focus on project viability and its capacity to create employment when assessing loan applications. We are flexible on the form of security required. We accept a pledge of various forms of movable assets and personal guarantees,” he said.
“The equipment purchased from loan can be pledged as collateral while the borrower uses the machine for business. Young entrepreneurs are also encouraged to work in groups and cross-guarantee each other, especially in out-grower schemes for contract farming modelled around organised value-chain arrangements. The bank can collaterise these arrangements much to the benefit of the youths without security.”
Njanike said the bank’s strategic focus in the next five years was to grow into a leading financial services and solutions provider for young entrepreneurs. They are targeting to open branches in all the country’s 10 provinces by 2020.
“To all the youths, we value your potential, courage, energy and innovativeness. You are the present and the future; EmpowerBank is looking forward to banking on you for the better future of Zimbabwe. Our collaboration starts now. I challenge you to be action oriented. You must start businesses; you only get results from doing,” he said.
In her official opening remarks, Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation deputy minister Yeukai Simbanegavi said 70% of the bank’s loan-book would be reserved for financing youth enterprises, while the remaining 30% would go towards supporting other Zimbabweans.
“Make it a point that you pay back your loans…At a broader level, paying back your loans and putting money in savings accounts contributes to the development of the economy at large. As a result, the bank will continue to have a pool of funds from which to lend to other people or businesses which also need economic empowerment,” she said.