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TIMVENI INVESTIGATIONS REVEAL THE STRUGGLES YOUTH FACE IN PURSUIT OF NEEF LOANS
By Nertha Hara & Aamon Butao
The Youth in the country have bemoaned government’s failure to put in place good strategies for disbursing youth loans under the National Economic Empowerment Fund (NEEF) in the country.
In an interview with Timveni, Chairperson of Umodzi Youth Group, Hamdan Nyirongo, expressed frustration that young people in his group have not accessed the loan despite applying last year.
According to Nyirongo, their group comprises 9 people who want to access four MWK 4.5 Million to boost their businesses.
But the problem is common across the country with some young people totally giving up on the loans.
Despite the fairytale promises and political rhetoric during the introduction of NEEF loans, the initiative’s impact on the ground has been underwhelming.
Many have blamed the processes that are undertaken to get the loans, describing them as tedious.
Others follow all the required processes but are frustrated at the end as getting the funds becomes a hustle.
Many groups have been put on hold and promised that the funds would reflect in their accounts but years and months are passing by without getting the loans.
Some people are blaming the Tonse Alliance Administration led by Dr Lazarus Chakwera for only favoring those from the Central Region, top government officials and Tonse Alliance political sympathizers.
Government has been stating that it will put measures in place to make sure that Malawians, especially the youth, are accessing the loans easily, but this is not the case on the ground.
In case of Umodzi Group, they said they applied for the loan last year and filled all the forms but NEEF Headquarters is still not giving them valid reasons for the delay in disbursement of the funds.
According to Nyirongo, the group went back to NEEF headquarters to inquire on the progress, but they were told that the office only had a balance of MWK1.6 Billion so it could not give the group the requested loan.
This led to protests and disarray because, for over a year, the youth were waiting for the loans.
Nyirongo has therefore called on government to investigate how many young people are benefiting from the loans because a lot of youth are complaining.
He further appealed that the loans should be given to people who are truly interested in doing businesses not politicians.
According to youth activist, Dingiswayo Jere, some field officers from some districts treat the youth as beggars and they are not duly assisted in the end.
Jere said field officers are rude and they deny the youth the opportunity to fill loan forms by lying to them that the forms are not available.
He said many young people have lost interest in the loan processes because the field officers are not supportive, available and welcoming.
It is therefore the responsibility of NEEF authorities to visit field offices and find out how the field officers are operating.
Reacting to the issue, NEEF Spokesperson, Whyghtone Kapasule stated he is aware that some youth have not received their loans due to lack of financial resources.
According to the spokesperson, the body is doing all it can so that every young person in the country should benefit from the loan.
Kapasule gave an assurance that NEEF will make sure that all who applied for the loans last year should receive their loans by June.
He said MWK 32 Billion was disbursed last year to over 100 thousand Malawians.
He also quashed allegations that NEEF is favoring only those that are politically-connected.
Kapasule said the purpose of NEEF is to ensure that all Malawians especially the youth are economically empowered.
In the 2020/2021 National Budget, NEEF was allocated K40.5 billion but Government promised to increased the figure to K75 billion.
NEEF youth loans are widely regarded as the main gateway of dealing with youth unemployment in the country which is estimated at about eight percent.
Young people do not have access to decent jobs with most of them finding solace in low quality employment and informal sector.
About 80.3 % of youth acquire business skills informally in their quest to be economically-independent.