It is good news to hear that MK40 billion has been allocated to the youth through Malawi Enteprise Development Fund (MEDF) loans in the provisional budget as read today in parliament by our new Finance Minister Mr Felix Mlusu.
As a matter of opinion, I do not really take this allocation seriously because of what we have seen in the past. Politicians have used this money to enrich themselves, reward party loyalists and silence the dumb youths. Kupakama mafuta pakamwa.
You cannot show me any youth grouping with or an individual with a success story from these loans. It rests in the same WhatsApp group as those loans from that company with with an F, that has operated in Malawi for years but is yet to produce a single millionaire. From Nsanje to Chitipa, Mchinji to Mangochi, you cannot show me young people who made it from these loans.
I fault the whole process especially its distribution to the youth. Usually, we are told young people are required to form groups and propose a business they want to do, if approved, then they get given the loans. In few miracle circumstances that a particular group is successful, the money is shared before investing and before you know it, the group has disbanded with members going solo and to square one, waiting for the next budget allocation.
I do not want to only criticise. I will offer my brief insight of what I think the new government should adopt. Dump the old ways of doing it. We can’t continue to do what UDF and the regimes after them did with this youth fund. As a young person myself, it pains me to be given billions every year but lives remain the same, it pains.
Quickly, here are my outlines.
- Put the funds into categories
You can’t just ask young people to come together into groups and claim the funds. Some people have better ideas which they can implement on their own without being in groups. As an issue of traditional trajedy, groups die premature in Malawi and we have very few successful partnerships in business in our country. There are those lazy and useless young people who will want to hide in the shadows of others. It will therefore be best to make it available for individual ventures too (I am assuming they are given my knowledge on the issue).
- Consider both urban and rural set ups
If you go to my village in Mchinji today, ask the young people there what they can do with their loan, you will hear issues such as Kabaza business, farming, opening a canteen and so forth. That perfectly fits their surrounding.
If you come to the city and ask my friend Gift Sukez Sukali and his HD Plus Creations crew, they will tell you they need to get a 4K camera and complete their movie which they also intend to take to international market. It fits their dreams and set up.
Unfortunately, my friend Gift will not be successful getting this money because focus has been to those young people in the rural areas and on top, even the person reading the proposal, do not even know what a 4K camera is but knows what Zibwente business is.
If the money is categorised to accommodate particular demographics, we will be assured that people looking at the proposals of urban youths will at-least be conversant with the urban trends. Remember there was a time when the then Information Minister Mr Nicholas Dausi struggled to explain what 4G is in parliament. Imagine another person of his calibre reading a proposal which discusses a business in digital marketing. We kill dreams.
- After College Fund
It would be very good for young people graduating from different universities and colleges to be challenged of what they can do. Make a certain amount available for this particular group. Its not everyone who wants to go job hunting. Using the knowledge acquired from their respective fields, others simply want a certain capital to launch their entrepreneurship journey. As it stands, they have nothing in that MK40 billion. I am speaking of what we have seen.
- Innovation Youth Fund
There are a lot of young people who have invented or are trying to come up with certain innovations but have no financial destination to take their dreams to. Let them also have a package in that MED fund. There was Kankwamba in those days. People like him perfectly fit in this category. We need people in the office of this fund who can go out there and discover different innovations by young people to adopt and support them. Imagine having people like Kankwamba as a product of MEDF.
- Follow up, Blacklist, Whitelist and Awards
When you give young people money, promise them more if they are successful with the first take, they will do magic. As it stands, no follow ups are done to account for the money taken and check what it has been used for.
We now have National IDs. Tell them point blank, you eat this money, you will be blacklisted and will never be entitled to any loan, whether the same or at banks. If they use it well, they will be whitelisted and can even be recommended for an upgrade.
Put serious strings attached to the money. This will add seriousness. After a period, record success and reward them by xpanding their business. Even introduce MEDF Awards where we get to hear success stories. Not only will it prove the better usage of the money, it will also help others to step up and in the end, it becomes a culture.
Anyway, like I said, I have never really agreed with how this money is used. I will he waiting to see how far we will do with this MK40 billion in the Tonse government’s provisional budget. There are more points that we can add to this. I end here today.