The decision by government to allocate 25 billion shillings for the youth under the Youth Entrepreneurship Venture Capital Fund may have caused massive excitement among the youths but the celebration is quickly dying out for the majority of the young people in northern Uganda.
The money provided in the 2011/2012 budget to cure unemployment is managed by DFCU Bank; while Enterprise Uganda is to provide identification of appropriate entrepreneurs and help them acquire the skills they need to succeed. However, the intended beneficiaries have already begun to complain that the qualifications and requirements for the fund is beyond their reach and fear they will miss out on the opportunity unless government intervenes to relax some of the conditions.
Information that URN obtained from DFCU bank indicates that applicants for the Youth loan must be between 21 to 35 years of age with a bank account. It adds that one must possess at least an Ordinary Level certificate with additional certificate of attendance for training in entrepreneurship from an institution approved by the Ministry of Finance. The bank adds that borrowers must be individuals or companies with valid trading licenses or other legally recognized legal business entities that must have been employing at least four people.
Faced with the qualifications, many youths in Gulu and Nwoya districts are crying foul saying they are sure to miss out on the opportunity unless changes are made. Robert Abonga, a youth chairman in Nwoya district says that he has already counted himself out because he confesses that he does not possess an O’ level certificate.
Abonga explains that while many of them have attended training on entrepreneurship by Enterprise Uganda, they do not have Ordinary Level certificates. He has appealed to government to help relax some of the conditions to enable them benefit from the credit opportunity.
//Cue in: SFX: Translated voice of Abonga complaining about the tight conditions…
Abonga is not alone in the dilemma. Moses Obong, a resident of Gulu municipality says that many youths in northern Uganda have not had the chance to acquire education to the level of senior four because he says they have spent years worrying about how to survive the LRA war than they have been to school. Obong says that government should have considered their plight before introducing such stringent conditions.
The Youth fund is supposed to focus on sectors including agro-processing, primary agriculture, livestock, manufacturing, construction, tourism, ICT, health, education and transport. Beatrice Amule, a student in Nwoya says that while the sectors are applicable to their area, the conditions are too hard for them to even consider applying for the money.
According to DFCU bank, only first time borrowers would be considered for the loan and would be allowed a loan amount of between 2 million to 25 million shillings with an interest rate of 15 percent per year. All borrowers are also expected to have guarantors who must also have bank accounts with the bank.
Richard Todwong, the MP for Nwoya County has said they are equally concerned about the harsh conditions adding that he would lobby with other MPs to ask government to review the conditions and requirements for accessing the loan.