The Youth Enterprise Revolving Fund (YERF) is now on the final stage of assessing applications of loans made to it. This was disclosed by YERF Chief Executive Officer Bhekizwe Maziya in an interview. He said the process involved screening of all applications to see if applicants had submitted all the necessary documents, such as trading licenses, business plans and personal documents. This constitutes ‘Stage 1’ of the process. In ‘Stage 2’, YERF assesses the viability of the proposed business. Maziya said they would give priority to agri-businesses as
these have the capacity to create more jobs. He said in the absence of exceptionally good business ideas, agriculture would be the preferred option for the reasons he has already mentioned. The agricultural sector
is the second largest contributor to the economy of Eswatini after the manufacturing sector. Agriculture’s
share of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fluctuates with the fortunes of the harvest, accounting for more than 10% of GDP. Maziya said technology was their second priority, as the country is gearing for the 2022 vision. He noted that most of the applicants in this sector were young people who were creative, innovative and techno-savvy. “Most developed economies have heavily relied on technological advancement for their economies to grow, and Eswatini must not be left behind if we are to attain the 2022 vision,” he said. The manufacturing industry too cannot be left out, said Maziya. Manufacturing is the main driver of the economy of Eswatini, accounting for 42.3% of GDP. This
sector consists primarily of four export-oriented industries: wood pulp production, drink processing, fruit
canning, and sugar processing. On another note, Maziya said all those who had not been contacted regarding
their applications still stood a chance. “Those who haven’t received phone calls or messages from the Fund are still in with a chance,” he said. Maziya explained that the applicants’ proposals were with SIDC, who are the intermediary ion the loan assessment process. “SIDC is currently evaluating the financial viability of the applicants’ proposed businesses. They look at whether or not the proposed business idea is viable; and if the applicant would be able to pay back the loan,” said Maziya. The CEO said they had anticipated that the loan assessment exercise would not take longer than three months; but given the nature of business it involves, they had to make sure that everything was done properly, no matter how long it took to do so. Maziya assured the applicants
that they would know whether or not their applications had been successful early next year, encouraging those who would not make it to apply again. The YERF has since closed for the festive season. The next loan application window opens in February next year.
YERF LOAN APPLICANTS FAIL TO MAKE THE GRADE
The Youth Enterprise Revolving Fund (YERF) is disappointed with the majority of applicants who have made requests for loans from the Fund. YERF Chief Executive Officer Bhekizwe Maziya said they have uncovered serious weaknesses on the part of the applicants, ranging from lacking proper documentation such as trading licences to unconvincing business plans. Maziya said most of the youth who had shown interest in acquiring loans from the Fund were not
from the Junior Achievement or Enactus training programmes. He commended both the JA and Enactus for properly
preparing their candidates and equipping them with basic skills to run businesses. He said capacity building should start at an early stage, before the candidate makes an application for a loan. This will enable the applicants to know what is expected of them when they apply for a loan, he noted. “When we went through the loan applications, we found that a lot of applicants had problems, such as not having trading licenses; while others did not even know
that their businesses needed trading licences in the first place. That’s why, as a fund, we feel there is a lot that needs to be done to capacitate the entrepreneurs even before they apply for loans,” explained Maziya. He
said others had challenges drawing proper business plans. “We will train the entrepreneurs on the practical aspects of running a business as some have business acumen, but lack practical aspects such as record-keeping and managing cash flow,” he said. YERF believes the solution to these challenges would be to strengthen partnerships with relevant stakeholders such SIDC, Eswatini Agricultural Development Enterprise (ESWADE), Junior Achievement, Enactus and the Royal Science and Technology Park (RSTP) to mention only but a few. He said these would help in capacity building in the different sectors. “With these partnerships, we are trying to do more with the money that the Fund has. Another program is the training and mentorship programme provided by the Youth Fund to those entrepreneurs
who have never been exposed to the JA and Enactus mentorship programs, but do have the dream for a business. Under
this training program, we will be teaching the entrepreneurs how to run a business and train them on issues of pricing, bookkeeping and managing cash flows,” Maziya said.