Government has set up a ZWL$17 Million Relief Fund to support youth-led businesses and associations and to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on their operations across the country.

The fund which is being administered through the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation aims to promote innovativeness, value addition, and/or beneficiation among youth-run enterprises and Complement other relief initiatives by Government, was unveiled by the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Honourable Kirsty Coventry in Harare yesterday.

The Minister said the fund is meant to provide relief support to youth enterprises affected by the coronavirus endemic and the measures being taken to contain it and seeks to build capacity among youth-led businesses and registered youth organisations engaged in activities complementing the National Task Force’ relief efforts such as manufacturing and distribution of protective materials such as face masks, sanitizers, soaps as well as those engaged in other social supporting activities such as public awareness campaigns.

As we are all aware, the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already infected more than 1,5 million people with more than 100,000 deaths worldwide has the potential to reach a larger proportion of the global population. Zimbabwe has of now recorded 29 cases with 4 of them having succumbed to the pandemic. Many businesses have been affected by the pandemic and the youth sector has also not been spared.

The Minister said the Relief Fund targets youth enterprises and registered youth associations who meet the specified criteria which include associations or Enterprises owned by Zimbabwean youths which must have been existing and operating for a period of at least six months to a year before the lockdown who are able to demonstrate how their activities have been impacted by COVID19 pandemic.

 

“Their project/business must have a formalized business structure and comply with the statutory requirements governing that sector. The must demonstrate innovation, value addition, and or beneficiation”. The Minister said.

 

She added that enterprises helping to combat Covid19 will be given priority in the release of funds and the association or enterprise must be able to produce a bank statement dating back 6 months to a year prior to the lockdown. Applicants should not have benefitted from other Government COVID19 relief facilities.

 

To benefit from the fund, Applicants are required to provide proof of operation for a minimum of six months to a year prior to lockdown in the form of invoices, orders, delivery notes, and bank statements. They must be youth aged between 18 -35 years and must are citizens of Zimbabwe residing in the country with local business operations. In addition, they must show proof of place of operation eg lease agreement, ZESA bill, Water bill, etc.

 

The Minister said the disbursement of funds to qualifying beneficiaries shall be a once-off payment with registered Youth owned businesses/enterprises eligible for a grant of up to $5 000

While youth registered Social Organisations/ Associations can get up to $3 000.

“I wish to assure the nation that mechanisms are in place to ensure that the fund will be administered in an open and transparent manner as well as to ensure that all Zimbabwean youth who meet the above-set criteria will have an equal chance of benefitting from the programme. No application will be turned away. In fact, those that do not qualify under this Fund will be referred to other facilities such as the social protection, arts sector support scheme”. She said.

 

Minister Coventry said the application process involves various online platforms in line with existing precautionary measures put in place to avoid further spread of the corona virus. Youths who fail to access the online platforms can liaise with the Ministry’s provincial contact persons for onward submission to the Head Office.