Monday, July 26, 2021

New CEDA guidelines could cater for the youth, marginalized groups

Small Macro Medium Enterprises in Botswana still face a difficulty of securing finance needs despite the existence of the usually much decorated Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency and the Youth Development Fund.

Parliament has this week learnt that, as part of the government’s efforts to relax the CEDA requirements for the entrepreneurs to access finance at CEDA and improving its products, the Agency has taken step to review its guidelines to address ease of access to funding by marginalized groups including people living with disabilities PWDs). The review is expected to be completed by end of March 2020.  The Agency has further developed the disability mainstreaming agenda beginning this financial year and one of its objectives is to develop capacity for PWDs.

The Assistant Minister of Trade and Industry, Karabo Gare this week acknowledged in Parliament that indeed SMMEs still decry lack of access to financing. In further addressing this elephant in the room, Gare said the Ministry has collaborated with commercial banks such as Barclays, Stanbic and First National Bank Botswana who have since developed products that are suitable for SMMEs. Such products are not only financial but include shared facilities like operating space and internet.

One of the requirements that the CEDA applicants had always raised as a major going concern is the security which often puts them to a disadvantage.

This week in Parliament, some legislators pointed this security requirement to be an impediment for Batswana to be successful when they apply for CEDA loans, adding that an ordinary Motswana who apply for the loan does not even earn much.

Legislator for Gaborone Central, Mangwegape Healy indicated that considering the incomes of an average Motswana, demanding security from them puts them to a huge disadvantage to qualify.

Another legislator Molebatsi Molebatsi argued that CEDA has now turned to be operating like commercial banks and therefore it should not compete with banks. Instead he said, as they form part of government, they should let the private sector lead in assisting SMMEs on financing.

With regards to the PWDs, in an effort to promote inclusiveness for PWDs, Gare told Parliament that business plan forms and loan application forms are currently being transcribed to Braille. The work was completed in November 2019 and the document was launched this Thursday evening.

According to the junior Minister, Gare, the agency continuously conducts surveys and studies to improve its products. In this regard, one of its offering, Mabogo-Dinku was launched in 2016 and its objective is to offer short-term loans to micro-entrepreneurs. This product like others is all-inclusive and does not discriminate, hence women, youth and PWDs are also eligible. The agency does not have tailor-made products for PWDs, but they are assisted with available resources, he added. However, through Mabogo-Dinku, CEDA started noticing improvement in the uptake of its products by PWDs. The agency made a deliberate effort to market this product to PWDs across the country through its branch network and outreaches.

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