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WOMEN EMPOWERMENT PROGRAM RE-OPENS APPLICATIONS

Keikantse Lesemela

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Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Magang Ngaka Ngaka said the ministry is ready to receive new applications for the Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme as the review of the guidelines will be complete by end of March this year.

The programme was suspended in February 2017 to allow the review exercise to take place and enable the ministry to clear the backlog. In his budget presentation recently, Ngaka told parliament that the ministry has cleared the backlog and will be ready to process applications in the next financial year. “I am happy to indicate that my ministry has cleared the backlog and will be ready to process applications in the next financial year.

The review of the guidelines will be completed by March 2019 and will be used to effectively facilitate management of the programme,” said Ngaka. He highlighted that since inception in 1998 about 1074 projects have been funded with 5200 jobs created. Out of these, 946 are operational and 128 have collapsed. “The collapsed businesses are mainly due to mismanagement of funds, group dynamics and limited market access in some areas.

To address these challenges my ministry is currently planning to undertake a comprehensive assessment during the next financial year The Government has to date spent a total of P155, 5 million under the Women Economic Empowerment Scheme since its inception. The ministry reviewed the programme in 2015 and 2016 and this resulted in a very high uptake of the programme, following which the ministry registered a total number of 107,801customers who inquired on the programme.

The total number of applications received were 4478, and by January 2017 they had a backlog of 3825, and because the backlog was continuously increasing, they suspended receipt of applications. In the 2019/20 budget the ministry allocated P54.8 million to the department of Gender Affairs.

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‘Manufacturing holds key to economic growth’

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Barclays bank’s economist Naledi Madala has urged the country to consider manufacturing, as a key tailwind to drive the economy and reduce inequality.

She was speaking at a gathering organised by the bank which focused on economic outlook for 2019. “We should not make a mistake of leapfrogging without manufacturing,” said Madala, lamenting that the country’s diversification remains a pipeline dream, as the diamond is still the economy’s mainstay. She bemoaned that mining activities in the country could not spring forward diversification, though non-mining GDP has been steady over the years.

“Extractive industries are not good stepping stones for diversification, the sector does not prepare us for the next step,” said Madala at the Barclays’ Economic Outlook Forum Review 2019. The economist further noted that government should confront head-on challenges of productivity and competitiveness to attract the much needed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Though diversification efforts continue to hit a brick wall, Madala said the country should expect increased activities in the mining sector hinged to ramp up in coal production in the year ahead.

She also implored government to consider a welcoming attitude towards foreign investors and generous tax incentives to businesses that set up in the country. Madala is also upbeat that the use of public private partnership model could also help diversify the economy coupled with privitisation. “Privitisation will offer opportunities for growth, through the renewed optimism from government, as business confidence has improved,” said Madala.

She implored the government and the business community to access what is going to drive and hinder growth highlighting that key headwinds to growth are income inequality, diversification challenge and productivity, among others. “The pace of poverty reduction has slowed down, while income inequality goes up,” said Madala

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MINISTER BEWAILS BAD REPAYMENT BY YOUTH

Keikantse Lesemela

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Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tshekedi Khama has told parliament his ministry continues to face challenges on the repayment of Youth Development Fund (YDF) loans.

Recently presenting the budget to Parliament, Khama said this financial year the ministry has received a total of 2582 YDF applications and approved 983of them to the value of P98 million. He said the programme attracts a high level of interest from youth but the ministry is only limited to funding a maximum of 1200 youth projects annually due to budget limitations.

“However the greatest challenge for the Fund is the repayment of the loan component by the majority of the youth businesses. The youth have advanced number of challenges for this including high rentals for operating spaces, low market access owing to tight competition and limited production capacities,” said Tshekedi, adding that they continue to pursue beneficiaries to repay the loans.

Out of the 919 businesses funded 1058 jobs have been created. The minister highlighted that disbursements of funds will continue to be undertaken until the end of the financial year. “The YDF is currently under review in line with the pronouncement made by the President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi in the State of the Nation Address, to improve beneficiaries through training, and encourage consortia and cooperatives,” said Tshekedi.

The ministry assists YDF beneficiaries in marketing their products and services through fairs and exhibitions. The ministry also runs entrepreneurship-training seminars for youth and in the past year 3692 young people were trained. Over 600 youth businesses attended fairs and exhibitions to market their products and services. Currently the ministry is collaborating with Local Enterprise Authority (LEA), First National Bank Botswana and Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) on training in entrepreneurship development and mentorship of YDF beneficiaries.

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