NYCS empowering rural livelihoods

FIVE years after its implementation, the National Youth Credit Scheme (NYCS) has proven to be a viable catalyst for poverty eradication and a source of employment for youth in rural Namibia.

The project has provided training for over 2 600 youths from seven different regions in basic business management skills. And out of these trainees, the programme has seen financial loans being given to more than 2000 aspiring entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 35. Of these loans, 80% were granted in the Oshana, Omusati, Oshikoto and Ohangwena regions. The programme has thus far disbursed monies amounting to N$ 1, 383,408.

The pilot phase of the project was initiated by the Commonwealth Youth Program (CYP) in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth, National Services, Sports and Culture.

The pilot phase was run in the four north central regions funded through a pooling of resources. The project received a total cash injection of N$1,350 million from government, N$1million from the Social Security Commission and an additional N$340 000 from the Common Youth Program (CYP).

This phase was intended to run from 2005 to 2006 however after a midterm review of the programme’s progress in 2006 the programme was declared fit for implementation. According Helen Amutoko, who is the National coordinator of the programme at the line Ministry, the review established that the project was ideal for the eradication of poverty in the country hence the recommendation for its replication in other regions.

“That same year the programme received the blessing of Cabinet and the main phase of the programme commenced in August 2007.” “Cabinet approved the implementation of the NYCS in all the thirteen regions of Namibia for a period of five years ending 2012.” Amutoko said.

The program is implemented using the Omusati Cooperative Model whereby the monies are administered through village banks that have been established through the technical assistance of the Rural Institute for Social Empowerment (RISE) Namibia.

The loans are given in three phases, first, second and third. The repayment is controlled by an established revolving credit steering committee, Prime Focus has learnt.

Successes

Among the top priorities of this project, according to Amutoko, has been to provide 13,000 jobs through youth self employment whilst creating jobs for other fellow unemployed young people.

“We also intended to provide 5000 youths with business management skills with the aim of inculcating an entrepreneurial culture in them,” said Amutoko. The project further intended to establish 5000 sustainable businesses owned and operated by the youths who have gone through the NYCS training.

Says Amutoko; “Our loans started very small because we are dealing with a risky market but recently we have increased our loans. The first loan used to be a maximum of N$700 but it has now been adjusted to a maximum of N$1500. The second loan now exceeds N$1500 and the third loan is close to N$4000. These increments are indicative of progress.”

Also a notable success is the fact that the programme has already provided training for over 50% of the targeted number of trainees by 2012, and has established over 2000 operational enterprises in the regions where it is implemented, Amutoko stressed.

The programme is said to have a 90% repayment rate in all regions with 95% of all participants’ previously disadvantaged women. The emerging entrepreneurs venture in all sorts of businesses from hairdressing to commercial gardening as well as small scale information technology projects such as internet cafés.

Disbursements

Since the inception of the programme, according to a report in the possession of Prime Focus, the Oshana region tops the list of loan recipients having received a disbursement of N$235,950. The amount was granted to 656 youths. The Omusati region also received the same amount however only 498 participants were trained.

These regions according to a report issued by the ministry are followed by Oshikoto which received N$201,908 and Ohangwena which received N$255,650 for 420 and 430 participants respectively. The Omaheke region is the lowest having received an amount of N$66,000 with only 50 participants trained.

The programme, the report reveals, is implemented on behalf of government by three implementing agencies. The Rural Institute for Social Empowerment (RISE) Namibia, which is one of the implementing agencies for the northern regions, is said to be one of the country’s leading non-governmental organisation in rural poverty reduction and employment creation especially among rural youths. RISE Namibia primarily focuses on the northern regions of Oshana, Oshikoto, Ohangwena and Omusati.

Another implementing agency is the Namibia First Luxury Corporation CC (NAMFLIC). The programme according to NAMFLIC which mainly focuses on the Kunene region has built and assisted the youth in this region to realise their dreams by becoming business owners thus becoming part of the national economy. “It is a pleasure to see how the funds are prudently distributed in the community in transparent and professional manner as well as responsibly,” a report compiled by the agency reads.

The third implementing agency is the newly established Ongendo Development Trust which operates in the Omaheke region, primarily in the village of Otjinene.

Implementing agencies, Prime Focus has learnt, are allocated monies amounting to N$82,000 for the entire year. These agencies are expected to train 35 participants quarterly.

Focus on the North Central and North Eastern regions

Festus Alugodhi is the programme coordinator for RISE Namibia in the north central north eastern regions. Prime Focus caught up with Alugodhi to gauge his views on the programme of which he has been at the helm of since its inception.

Says Alugodhi; “The project in short is viable, workable and has a potential of helping the youth. With the recent financial downturn there was a bit of an impact on the projects and one could see that the number of employees of some of the small ventures was dwindling.”

The participants, like in other regions, received training in basic business skills and at the end of each training session they were required to produce workable business plans. “We trained over 2002 participants in the four O regions and an additional 439 participants from Caprivi and Kavango regions. It should be noted, however, that in some instances the amount of trained participants does not necessarily reflect the number of people who received the loan because some trainees did not return,” Alugodhi told Prime Focus.

According to Alugodhi, the total amount of loans that his implementing agency granted to date amounts to approximately N$1.2 mil for the six regions which includes Caprivi and Kavango.

“We have given loans to over 1249 participants and so far we haven’t had any problems with repayment.” The RISE Namibia implemented programmes in the north central and the north east has created approximately 2339 jobs in those six regions alone. “We are now looking at expanding our implementation to other untapped regions,” said Alugodhi.

Challenges

Both Amutoko and Alugodhi maintained that the biggest challenge threatening the success of the programme is the fact that government and its agencies are venturing “on a road less travelled.” “We are learning as we go,” Amukoto said.

Also a challenge according to the national coordinator of the programme is the lack of understanding of micro financing in Namibia.

According to Alugodhi, the fact that government and its agencies are dealing with a risky target of youths who do not have collateral and/or sufficient business know-how presents another challenge.

They are however adamant that these challenges can be overcome. They further agreed that there is a need to increase the upper limit of the money that can be availed to the youth without compromising on the viability and the success of the NYCS. PF