BY NKOSINI KHUPE
Youths from Matabeleland North say they failed to submit applications for loans that are accessible through the Empower Bank due to travel restrictions during the COVID-19 lockdown period.
The bank officially launched a programme to empower the youths through loans in 2018 in response to the challenges they were facing in accessing funding for their projects. The bank is mandated to provide social and financial solutions with greater focus on the youths.
Youths in Lupane district told the Southern Eye during a COVID-19 awareness campaign for athletes and artists organised by the Youth, Sport, Arts and Culture ministry that they faced several bottlenecks to access the loans.
“When the Empower Bank came here, it was during lockdown and a lot of youths failed to secure transport to travel to Lupane to hand in applications for the loans,” Soneni Ncube, a youth from Lupane, said.
“The process of making the applications is also cumbersome,” she said.
Ncube also said those who managed to apply and got the loans had challenges over how to use the cards they received from the bank.
The youth bank currently has branches in Bulawayo, Harare, Masvingo and Mutare and is yet to open a branch in the Matabeleland North provincial capital, Lupane.
Although the Bulawayo branch is responsible for Matabeleland North, youth from the province have appealed to the Youth ministry to speed up the process of opening another branch in Lupane district so that they can benefit from Empower Bank services.
Other challenges cited by the youths include lack of equipment such as photocopying machines, which makes it difficult for them to copy and submit the required documentation to register and apply for the loans.
Lupane Youth for Development Trust (LUYDT) programmes officer, Zibusiso Moyo raised concern over the absence of an Empower Bank branch in Lupane, saying that resulted in youth in the district being left out of many programmes.
“There are youth with various skills in Lupane, but because they have no one to support them financially, they will continue to wallow in poverty,” Moyo said.
Youth ministry representative Bensen Martin Dube, who represented minister Kirsty Coventry at the event, said the bank was working on opening a branch for Matabeleland North province.
“The Empower Bank will soon be opening a branch in Lupane to cater for youth from Matabeleland province. When it opens, Lupane youth should be the first ones to flood that bank,” Dube said.
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