By Taruberekera Masara
Youth,Sports,Arts and Recreation Minister Doctor Kirsty Coventry has been criticized by youth empowerment pressure groups after unveiling a lean Covid 19 Relief Fund to the tune of ZW $17 million.
Various youths based organizations cited that the fund was a mere pittance that cannot stimulate any business.
According to the Ministry Covid 19 Relief Fund for Youth led Businesses and Associations will be used to mitigate the effects of Covid 19 on their operations across the country.
The ministry set packages for businesses at up to ZW $5000 and associations getting funds up to the tune of ZW $3000 individually.
The grant facility is meant to stimulate capacity development in youth led businesses and associations which are engaged in activities that aid national task force on Covid 19 pandemic relief.
Such businesses according to Dr Coventry must be in the supply chain of sanitizers, soaps and personal protective equipment PPEs.
The fund however has been criticized for failing to be realistic of the existing economic situation, Ashirai Mtirikwi Mawere youth empowerment activist and a member of ZANU PF dismissed the fund as a dry joke.
“Maybe its a fund for food packages, no serious business can be stimulated by an amount that is less than US $100”,
“The minister should try and be real. How do you loan me under US $100 when l am manufacturing detergents.Sasol g9 3litres goes for 123usd already you are in the red trying to recover”,
“Shutting up is the best option not this ” said Mawere.
Kwekwe based organization Youth Integrated Action on Development and Democracy Zimbabwe bemoaned the unrealistic framework that came up with funding objectives.
The organization noted with concern the insensitivity of government funding towards youths saying the fund is blind of the fact that youths are 60% of the population and mainly found in informal businesses.
” It cannot be a one size fits all package, businesses are different and require different stimulus packages to individual needs”,
” The ministry need to find innovative ways to enable the youth to recover and self sustain”,
” For the longest the challenges youths are known but have not been addressed” cited YIADDZ.
The organization added that youths in businesses and associations are the missing middle- that in most circumstances they do not qualify for government aid or even non governmental organizations relief programs and projects.
” Unless they fit in some other sub-groups like disability constituency, or disease related vulnerability the youths are always a missing middle often times they don’t qualify for grants and aid” they added.
Youth activist Setfree Mafukidze also added that the fund was not enough to stimulate any recovery of businesses.
“That amount is not sufficient for businesses to kick off given that they have been closed for 25 days now. Most of the youths rents out premises where they operate from, essentially this fund will go towards rentals and cushioning employees” he said.
Mafukidze added that the Ministry could have consulted to get an informed programming decision.
“It would have been wiser to consult widely using the available platforms,consultation with those in business would have been the best alternative before coming up with any figures” said Mafukidze.
He also said the Ministry has not communicated the scheme in a robust way a development he said will see a lot of needy businesses failing to get the funds.
“Most youth led business owners I spoke to did not know about this program and most do not know about it to this day” he added.
Mafukidze also lamented the partisan nature the program is taking.
“The program is being fronted by ZANU PF youth leaders and that makes it difficult for all young people to benefit,various lists were created but within ZANU PF Youth League circles” he said.
The Covid 19 Relief Fund for Youth led Businesses and Associations comes at a time youths are shrugging off the memories of Kurera/Ukondla Youth Fund which was largely politicized and never got to empower the youths.