By JOHN SEMAKULA
When Steven Kizito, 33, went to the bank to secure a loan last year, through the Youth Venture Capital Fund, he was asked to present a birth certificate and security. While he was able to find a birth certificate, getting collateral was a tall order.
A resident of Butebe village in Mukono, Kizito rents two rooms, where he lives with his family. He has no land title which the bank wants as security.
Kizito works as a newspaper vendor in the morning and later attends to his art and crafts business, worth about sh2m. He wanted a sh5m loan to expand his business.
But without security, he has given up on the Youth Venture Capital loans, which were recently initiated by the Government to boost small youth enterprises.
Kizito is one of the thousands of youth whose hope to benefit from the fund have been shattered by several factors, including lack of security.
But when the Government announced the Youth Livelihood Programme (YLP) during the International Youth Day celebrations recently to supplement the Youth Venture Capital Fund, Kizito’s hopes were rekindled.
“I am ready to collect the loan as soon as the programme kicks off. I will pay back because I have running projects,” he said.
The programme is a result of combined effort by stakeholders who want to end the escalating problem of youth unemployment.
Before unveiling the new programme, the state minister for the youth, Ronald Kibuule, said YLP is a better programme.
He noted that beside the banks asking the youth for security, which they did not have, they (banks) were also few on ground.
With the new programme, Kibuule said the funds would be directly channelled to the beneficiaries from the centre.
In the same spirit, the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Youth Affairs (UPFYA) has also come up with the National Youth Enterprise Fund Bill, which was tabled in Parliament recently.
Eastern youth MP Peter Ogwang said that the fund would be more reliable and will not be tagged to whims of politicians.
Ogwang said the Venture Fund, whose income would come from the Government, donors and well-wishers, would run parallel to other programmes, like YLP.
Although the YLP programme is still a proposal, President Museveni has indicated he might support it. Speaking at the International Youth Day celebrations in Mukono recently, Museveni said the idea was brilliant and asked for some time to study it, before he would take a position.
Gender ministry permanent secretary Pius Bigirimana said the YLP programme was meant to operate, like the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF). It is a community-based programme, where the locals initiate the project.
NUSAF is community-driven and puts a lot of emphasis on accountability, even the Inspectorate of Government keeps a keen eye on the process from the start.
How will YLP operate?
According to the proposal, the progamme targets youth between 18 and 30 years. The beneficiaries must be living in slums, single parents, youth with disability, youth who have completed secondary schools and tertiary institution and school dropouts
The programme is multi-sectoral and will be implemented over a period of five years, starting from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2018, in all the 112 districts of Uganda. The programme is intended to contribute to sustainable production, which will ultimately lead to national development.
Through the community participatory mechanism, beneficiaries would be identified during the extended participatory rural/urban appraisal process at sub-counties.
The chosen project will be allocated a maximum sh12.21m, but any project with a budget in excess of this amount, which the district technical team will deem necessary, will be recommended for approval by the national technical working committee. Such a project will be subject to an absolute capital of sh24.42m.
Funds to the benefiting projects will flow directly from Bank of Uganda to the district’s operation account and from the districts to the sub-county account. Districts and sub-counties have been allocated operation fees worth at least 5% of the total project disbursement.
Each interest group consisting of 10 to15 members, will have a democratically elected Youth Project Management Committee (YPMC), which will manage the projects on behalf of the communities.
The group to be considered must have a number of things, including a physical address. Members must be unemployed or underemployed and must provide for the youth with disability. The groups must also be composed of 30% female members.
Ogwang is optimistic that the programme will work. The MP said the youth councils were fully involved in conceptualising the programme, unlike in the past.
He added that the problem of youth unemployment has been mainly caused by lack of capital and a negative attitude.
Bigirimana said beneficiaries would pay back the loans after the projects have generated profits equivalent to the loan advanced.
“A total of sh53b will be provided every financial year to support the programme,” Bigirimana explained.
But Ogwang says even if the Government started with only sh19b this financial year, it would make a difference.
Experts react to the project
Prof Augustus Nuwagaba, an anti-poverty activist, said the programme would work since it involves giving the youth capital and enterprising skills, instead of cash handouts.
“It is more viable where you have fish and you teach someone how to fish than giving him fish. When you give people cash, they think it is their money to eat,” Nuwagaba said.
He advised Uganda to adopt the Chinese “dual qualification framework system, where students at universities graduate with two papers, including one in a vocational skill, such as plumbing. He said Tanzania had adopted the system.
Robert Kabushenga, the CEO of Vision Group, seems to agree with Nuwagaba according to the opinion he wrote in New Vision recently, in which he backed skilling against cash handouts.