Including the private sector in the running of youth development funds in Africa

In the last decade, youth have taken center stage as the corner stones of economic development in Africa. According to the African Economic Outlook report published in 2012, Africa has the youngest population in the world with 200 million people in the youth age bracket (15-24 years old).  This number is expected to double by 2045. With numbers like these most African countries have in the last few years taken an interest in investing in the youth. Governments such as that of Kenya have developed the  Youth Enterprise development Fund and the Zambian government has developed the youth development fund. These initiatives that have been launched across the continent for the benefit of the youth have in most cases been run inefficiently, and have therefore not reached the target groups they were intended for. These initiatives have been poorly marketed and the youth have no knowledge of the funds existence. In the recent past these funds across the continent have been plagued with various scandals. There have been cases of heads of departments wiring money into personal accounts, officials giving priority to youth related to them or those they know on a personal basis and youth having to bribe officials to be considered for the funds.

Should governments run their own development funds or should the private sector be involved to ensure that the funds run efficiently? In many cases the development funds have very low repayment rates, with governments facing repayment rates as low as 2 %. In 2012 the Zambian government had more than 80% of their loans unpaid. governments clearly cannot follow up with repayments pertaining to the youth. It is therefore highly difficult for progress on youth enterprises to be made and for necessary support services to be provided.

One may question whether African governments are effectively equipped to run such entities on their own and whether they have the capabilities and high quality, transparent, efficient professionals to man these funds.

The donor community has opted to work with the private sector in implementing their projects and initiatives.  The private sector brings with it a high level of transparency, professionalism and most importantly they produce results. The mere fact that they work on time schedules has instilled in them a good level of ethics and efficiency. African government should then consider engaging the private sector in running these development funds.

Featured image | Karamojong dancing youth | Wikimedia commons

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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