Youth and women entrepreneurs in South Sudan are in lucky days, as more funding and support are coming to them. It is an initiative of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the United Nations Women.
Together, they have launched a youth financing facility project that will deliver this goal.
The project aims to provide access to a financing facility and interest-free loans for youth and women-led small enterprises (MSEs) and Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs).
Haji Fauzia Mwita, Country Program Officer for the African Development Bank in South Sudan, explained the purpose of the project during a press conference.
“The project is intended to support youths, including young women and men, to support them with their micro and small and medium enterprises as there is a gap for the young people to have access to capital to start up a business.”
Help Young People Start
The project’s goal is to help young people start their own businesses, grow existing ones, or connect them to broader markets.
The VSLAs, MSEs, and cooperatives involved will receive technical support to formalize their business ventures, develop business plans, and build sustainable businesses.
Also, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Resident Representative in South Sudan, Samuel Doe, detailed how the project would operate.
“We have strict criteria in selecting businesses.
“If these businesses are able to pay back the loan, they gradually begin to establish trust between the businesses and the financing institutions.”
Doe added: “Our idea is to introduce small businesses to the banks at a low 0 interest rate and to take responsibility for the risk.
“When the risk is limited and that risk is reduced, banks begin to trust you; UNDP and the African Development Bank will step aside and the project will become purely a private sector interaction”.
Furthermore, the Deputy Country Representative of UN Women South Sudan, Rukaya Mohammed, emphasised the positive impact on women’s lives and social cohesion within communities.
“The project will improve the lives of women in society as they will be able to pay school fees, put three decent meals on the table, and improve their business skills.
“It will also bring social cohesion among people as it will bring individuals from different tribes to work together as a group for the interest of their business.”
Strengthening Social Cohesion
Rukaya shared a success story from the project, saying: “When a woman is doing business, she can pay the children’s school fees.
“She can feed the children three times a day instead of a single meal a day.
“We have places like Yambio in Western Equatoria State where women said they used to live in a grass-thatched house, but now they have bought roofing sheets.”
She described how the project is strengthening social cohesion that “the village savings and loan approach brings people from different tribes that were working independently to now work together.
“So, now there is trust because they have common good to protect, which is their income, their loan, their cash box, they have their common bank account because.”
“The project is not only strengthening social cohesion but also encouraging women to aggregate and work together for common goals.
“Through effective packaging, labelling, and access to markets, the project aims to help producers sell in bulk and thrive as entrepreneurs.
“Now even our husbands are friends.
“They are talking to each other. So, this intervention has strengthened social cohesion, and we trust each other.
“We see each other as one, so we have to work for the common good,” said Rukaya as she shared a testimony from women beneficiaries of the project.
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The project, funded with 10 million U.S. dollars from the African Development Bank, will span three years and is being implemented by the UNDP and UN Women.
Also, the financial services provided will support women and youth-led enterprises that meet loan requirements organized in VSLAs, establish MSEs, or form business cooperatives.
The beneficiaries will receive interest-free start-up capital ranging from 2,000 to 10,000 US dollars through bank or mobile money platforms.