Credit scheme unearths young entrepreneurs

With an 87% success rate so far and N$40m to spend in five years, the National Youth Credit Scheme (NYCS) that started in 2007 prides itself as the preferred initiative to fight unemployment among the youth.

The scheme, which differs from the mainstream lenders in many aspects, has some uniqueness in its operational modules, as it operates activities through appointed implementing agencies that mobilise and register the youth.

The scheme then organises business development trainings for the youth for a period of five days and upon completion, a business plan is submitted, which is used to fund the youth proposed project.

NYCS co-ordinator, Helen Amutoko says the reason for the youth credit scheme is to create an environment under which youth entrepreneurs could be empowered to contribute to the country’s socio-economic development.

Amutoko adds, so far, the scheme has tremendously impacted on the youth, considering the total jobs created since the programme’s inception with more than 5 000 youth trained in business management while over 3 600 enterprises have been created.

She quips that the programme does not have any bureaucratic scanning and red tape before the approval is given.

“(There is) no bureaucracy whatsoever in approval of loans to beneficiaries. The youth are given the loans directly by the implementing agencies upon completion of the business management training,” Amutoko says, adding that there is only one rule and that is of group collateral. Village heads and their families can also confirm their children’s identities before they participate.

Besides that, the objectives of the credit scheme are pretty clear: The target beneficiaries are the youth between (18-35 years); the scheme operates through group lending methodology; and then there’s the provision of training in basic business management skills and development of business plans. This precedes the receipt of any credit; provision of credit.

There is a series of three small loans in which the participants qualify for each succeeding (and bigger) loan after servicing the previous loan; follow up training counselling, monitoring and mentoring as well as access to other products after graduating from the package.

She hints that: “If the above are carried out successfully, I don’t doubt that the expected outcome of the youth credit scheme, which is to promote the livelihood of the youth through employment creation and generation of income through enterprise development in order to alleviate poverty among the young people of Namibia, could be met.”

There are measures put in place to reach out to all the youth in the country through the appointed implementing agencies, youth officers at both regional and at local authority levels, she says.

“Above all, we have embarked upon a fully-fledged marketing strategy to educate and inform all stakeholders about every aspect of the programme and effective use of radio programmes, newsletters, magazines, annual reports of the scheme and distribution of pamphlets to the youth centres and other Government offices are just some of the models,” the youth leader says.

She encourages the youth, most especially those from poor families, to go through the implementing agencies located in their respective regions individually or in groups and register for the business development training, after which they will be granted their first loans.

Her directorate, she says, has a massive challenge as Namibia as a nation lacks innovation from its active population and many start businesses that are already in operation in the areas they hail from.

“Few, however, try to be unique by starting businesses that are needed in the market,” she says, adding that the most popular business ventures the youth are interested in or are currently involved in are: Hair-dreses, printing businesses, cosmetics making, rain fed and dry season farming.

The directorate office, she asserts, has been very transparent right from the onset to foster for broader participation among the youth.

“We have since reached out deep in the villages where many might not even have access to radios and televisions. Each implementing agency and the youth employment officers have the responsibilities of conducting mobilisation throughout their respective regions,” the youth credit chief says, adding that other methods used to foster broad participation of the youth are through the use of pamphlets produced by the scheme, youth expos, youth beneficiaries, showcasing of products, trade fairs, village product showcasing and the yearly Savings and Credit Association (SCA) days.

“There is an absolute transparency in credit administration with the scheme, no report of preferential treatment or any shortcomings from the public about the NYCS secretariat have been received, not to mention inefficiency. The scheme even allows other youth to learn from each other’s business plans more especially where the businesses are replicable in another region.”

To ensure the smooth running and eventually the success of the scheme, the secretariat of the NYCS monitors and evaluates youth projects on a monthly basis by visiting the regions.

“Each region has focal personnel at the secretariat level while the co-ordinator is the overall overseer of the whole monitoring and evaluation activity. Regional youth employment officers and regional youth officers, who are active in employment activities, do monitor the programmes in their respective regions. They are free to discuss their findings with the secretariat on anything they might see on the ground,” she explains.

According to the NYCS office, the response has been fantastic. On an average, more than 50 applications are received by the implementing agencies on a weekly basis countywide.

NYCS co-ordinator further adds, Cabinet started in the four north-central regions and after approval of a pilot programme in 2007, it was decentralised to all 13 regions in the country to create employment and contribute to the alleviation of poverty in Namibia through youth economic empowerment.

The scheme works hand-in-hand with seven implementing agencies that are tasked to mobilise the youth in the regions with opportunities offered through the ministry. PF