From biting poverty to prosperity…The tale of Kurera/Ukondla Youth Fund beneficiaries

Mr Edson Chimombe (standing) supervises one of his workers
Mr Edson Chimombe (standing) supervises one of his workers

Tendai Chara
For 37-year-old Mr Edson Chimombe, a carpenter from Mbizo, Kwekwe, paying rent and putting food on the family table was at one time a source of recurring headaches. Although he toiled day and night, the father-of-two always failed to pay rent on time. As a result, the family was once chucked out of a rented house.

To the Chimombe household, a decent meal was very rare.
More often than not, the children would be sent back home from school due to non-payment of fees.

The family’s miserable life came to a screeching halt in 2009 when Mr Chimombe was given a loan by the Government through the Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment.

“I was always struggling to raise money to buy food and to pay rent. At one time I even contemplated going to South Africa to search for menial jobs.

“Were it not for the loan, I would probably have been dead by now,” he said.
Mr Chimombe is one of the thousands of youths whose lives were transformed after receiving funding from Government through such youth empowerment programmes as the National Youth Policy, the Kurera/Ukondla Youth Fund and the Wealth Creation Fund.

Thanks to Government funding, Mr Chimombe’s business has grown in leaps and bounds and the provision of food is no longer an issue.
So far, he has been given loans amounting to US$4 000.

“When I started this enterprise, I had nothing, not even a hammer. I had to borrow equipment from those who operated next to me. I then applied and received the loan that transformed my life,” he explained.

Putting the loan to good use, Mr Chimombe managed to expand his business.
The carpenter’s once barren workshop is now highly mechanised with state-of-the-art equipment like circular saws, routers and belt sanders.
While other small-scale furniture producers are failing to acquire lathes (costing around US$2 500), Mr Chimombe has acquired two such machines.

“I also bought compressors and from the machinery that I acquired, I am now able to meet my customers’ needs. The quality of my products has also greatly improved,” he added.

The carpenter produces both home and school furniture.
“I repaid the first loan in less than two months and then applied for a second, third and then fourth loan.
“The trick lies in servicing the loans.

“Once the banks have confidence in you, they will not hesitate to give you another loan.”
From the profits, Mr Chimombe has acquired a number of properties, among them an industrial stand and a delivery truck.
Another beneficiary of the National Youth Fund is 31-year-old Mrs Stella Fundai of Shurugwi’s Sebanga Extension suburb.
After receiving US$1 000 from the fund, she started a successful poultry project.

The businesswoman sells 250 chickens every three weeks, up from the 50 that she used to sell before she benefited from the fund.
An aggressive businesswoman, she has since diversified and is now running a tuckshop and flea market.
“The loan changed my life for the better. I am now a proud owner of my own eight-roomed house.

“Besides, I also bought a car and my children are attending boarding schools. What more would one ask for?”
The Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment mobilises youths to start projects, train and then assist them seek funding.
According to Mr Amos Gonye, a Shurugwi-based youth development officer, the loan facility has transformed the lives of thousands of youths in Shurugwi.

“Youths must stop crying over unemployment and take action. All they need to do is approach our ministry and we will help them acquire funding.
“The prosperity of the country rests on the youths,” Mr Gonye said.
According to Mr Gonye, there are 50 youth projects that are performing well in the district.

Close to 2 000 youths in the district have applied for funding.
The Shurugwi office has submitted 180 project proposals to banks on behalf of the youths and so far, 400 youths have already been trained.
Another Shurugwi-based youth development officer, Mr Ray Mudhumo, challenged youths to come up with business ideas and become masters of their own destiny.

“The youths must be bold enough to start their own businesses, even if they are small.
“Some of the youths were hoodwinked by certain political parties into believing that loans are only accessible to members of certain political parties.
“Loans are accessible to all Zimbabweans,” said Mr Mudhumo.

From the US$1 000 loans, beneficiaries are required to pay an interest rate of 8 percent over a period of six months.
According to a 2014 World Bank report, 11 million young people are expected to enter Africa’s labour market every year for the next decade.
The report says despite rapid growth in the formal sector, the majority of youths are likely to work on household enterprises.

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