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Youth Development Fund needs an overhaul

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

EAGLE WATCH

At paragraph 139 of this year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi, states that “… one of my top priorities is to address the problem of unemployment especially amongst the young people, who constitute the majority of our population…”

 

From the SONA, it is clear that Government believes that the Youth Development Fund (YDF) is the main vehicle it can use to address the problem of youth unemployment, and, therefore, reduce unemployment generally. But, the question is: can the YDF, in its current form, assist government to achieve this noble objective? In my view, it cannot. Significant reforms are required if the Fund is to assist Government to meet this noble goal.

It is for this reason that one gets comfort from H.E Masisi’s statement that a review of the YDF has been initiated “… to improve the success rate of youth projects and thus optimize job creation through the programme.” According to the SONA “… among the proposed changes will be a focus on funding of youth cooperatives and consortia in identified sectors with potential for success…” It states further that Government has also decided to capacitate the YDF beneficiaries through training in first- level project management as a pre-condition for being funded…” 

I agree that funding of youth Cooperatives and consortia in identified sectors with potential for success will add life to the YDF since it will, in the case of Cooperatives, address a section of our youth who can do better in Cooperatives than companies which are the current YDF’s focus. Cooperatives, which are currently mainly in the hands of the elderly, have contributed to the livelihood of many families. There is, therefore, no reason why youth cannot improve their livelihoods through Cooperatives.

However, for Cooperatives to be attractive to the youth there is need for law reform. For instance, there must be provision for Cooperatives whose legal status entails the characteristics of a quasi-company. Also, the law must provide for incentives that will make the formation of a Cooperative as attractive as the formation of a private company. Failing this, few youths will be induced to start Cooperatives, making it to remain the domain of the elderly as it is currently the case.

Legislation and the incentive regime must be such that the youth can start Cooperatives in sectors of the economy which the youth have preference for, e.g. Information Communication Technology (ICT). But, for the YDF to empower and develop the youth enough to contribute significantly to our country’s economic growth it needs a total overhaul. Much as they are appreciated, the introduction of Cooperatives, consortia and training of YDF’s beneficiaries cannot go a long way in making the YDF truly impactful in our development. A total overhaul is, therefore, required if the YDF is to contribute to the reduction of the scourge of youth unemployment.

Firstly, the Fund cannot be sustainable if it is reliant on Government funding alone. Its sustainability can be enhanced by, for instance, introducing a Youth Development Levy (YDL) as the main source of the Fund’s revenue, making it a revolving fund. A YDL of even as little as 1% levied monthly on all the employed can raise enough funds to finance enough youth projects with enough capital to enable them to compete as a business or Cooperative.

The levy system is already working for our country in the areas of motor vehicle accidents, tourism, alcohol consumption and the construction industry in the form of the fuel levy, tourism levy, alcohol levy and construction industry levy respectively. Certainly, if our people can bear the aforesaid levies, some of which are not of general importance, they can bear a YDL which, if properly managed, can contribute to the reduction of such socio-economic ills as crime which mostly involves the youth.  

Granted, many YDF-funded businesses collapse because of such maladies as poor business ethics and poor monitoring, but some collapse because of lack of capital, making them unable to compete with adult owned businesses. Secondly, Government can also attract private sector funding into the Fund by creating such incentives as tax rebates and tax holidays for the businesses that contribute to the Fund. 

In this case, the Fund also needs to indicate how risk exposure of the private funds is going to be managed, how the private funds will result in reasonable, if not competitive returns and whether or not real portfolio growth is possible. Thirdly, as part of the Fund, an entity devoted to mentorship and monitoring could be introduced. Such as entity would be manned by experts with private sector expertise devoted fully to mentoring the Fund’s beneficiaries and monitoring the undertaking.

Currently, the Fund has no mentorship component. Monitoring is in the hands of Youth Officers who are not only ill-resourced, but also lack the skills to conduct impactful monitoring. The few who have the skills do not have the time because they cover large arears. The Local Enterprise Authority (LEA), which sometimes helps, also lacks capacity since it also deals with adult owned businesses which often, because of their economic power, get preference over the poorly funded youth businesses. 
 

Fourth, the Fund could have a Youth Card system where, instead of the youth being given hard cash, part of the funds could be loaded in the Card for use, in a controlled manner, to pay for such services as training, mentorship, etc. This Card could also be a benefits card which the youth can use to access such services as internet and cell phone airtime. The Card could also enable them to get discounts form certain manufactures, retailers and suppliers when procuring items and material relevant to their business. 

Fifth, over and above the limited company and envisaged Cooperatives and consortia portfolios, the Fund could also have the franchise portfolio in terms of which instead of staring a new undertaking a youth can purchase a franchise from an existing business with goodwill and market share. Sixth, the Fund must have a debt collection agency. According to reports from the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, many youths fail to repay the loan component of the Fund.

This is not surprising. According to the Ministry, youth are expected to make the payments by hand at the District Youth Offices which are sometimes closed because the officers are expected to tour the district to monitor projects. Incredibly, there is no provision for payment by bank deposits, Direct Debits or Stop Orders, for instance. Arrear interest is not levied on defaulters. There are no debt collectors to follow up on defaulters.

The result is that millions of Pula are lost because some dishonest and fraudulent youth acquire the loan with the intention to use it not for the business, but for wayward purposes and thereafter abandon the project. Seventh, in order to ensure that the Fund benefits all sectors of the youth population it must have sub-funds for such target groups as young women, youth living with disabilities, youth in conflict with the law, rural youth, urban youth, etc.

To ensure that there is equitable or at least proportional funding among the aforesaid youth groups, reporting must be done not only in terms of districts, but it should also be disaggregated in terms of these target groups. Finally, for the fund to ne successful it must be managed not by a government department, but by a private company, or at least a parastatal. Government should focus on its main duty, i.e. the development of policies. 

If the Fund is run by Government, the projects will inevitably suffer from poor mentoring, monitoring and evaluation because most Youth Officers are not only ill-resourced but are also ill-trained. It is also unlikely for Youth Officers to be effective in debt collection because they are limited by such rules and regulations as regards who can receive money, where and at what time? 

The poor debt collection rate is also because Youth Officers do not want to burn their fingers because politicians, who have significant interest in the Fund, would not want their voters to be taken to court, for instance. If Government does not want to over haul the Fund as suggested herein the least it can do, in my view, is to remove it from the Ministry and assign it to the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA). CEDA would, of course, have to be capacitated accordingly.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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