Nqobile Tshili, commercial correspondent
EMPOWER Bank officially opened its first branch in Bulawayo yesterday, pledging an unsecured loan of $ 50,000 to local entrepreneurs with viable project proposals on a first come, first served basis.
The microfinance institution was created by the government last year with a penchant for funding young entrepreneurs.
President Mnangagwa opened the first branch in Harare in July last year with $ 12.5 million in seed capital.
Yesterday’s official opening positions the bank for wider service in the southern region with plans to create more branches in the country’s 10 provinces.
In his official opening remarks, the Chairman of the Board of Empower Bank, Mr. Raymond Njanike, said that as a gift to the entrepreneurs of Bulawayo, the bank is providing an unsecured loan facility of $ 50,000 to young people. who would approach the bank on a first come, first served basis.
“We promise $ 50,000 to the youth of Bulawayo to come on a first come, first serve basis to get the money, to borrow the money but with a viable project. No guarantee. The $ 50,000 is the money we gave to Bulawayo, ”Njanike said.
He said the bank had so far disbursed $ 1.2 million to applicants across the country while loans amounting to $ 5.09 million were still being processed.
Mr Njanike said that while most financial institutions required collateral before granting loans, Empower Bank was more concerned about the viability of a project.
“We have put in place various flexible guarantee measures to ensure that our young people are not disqualified due to a lack of guarantee. We do not qualify young people on the basis of guarantees. We focus on the viability of the product, its ability to create employment when assessing loan applications. We are flexible on the form of security requirements, ”he added.
Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation Deputy Minister Yeukai Simbanegavi said the opening of the bank shows the government’s commitment to reaching young entrepreneurs across the country.
She said the bank was tailor-made to address issues affecting young creatives who have failed to access capital to grow their businesses.
“The bank’s mandate is to design and deliver financial products and services tailored to the unique needs of young entrepreneurs and other Zimbabweans. The bank is open to all Zimbabweans with a special focus on young people, ”the deputy minister said.
“The bank is therefore here to tackle one of the main obstacles to economic participation of young people, the limited access to capital so that young people achieve effective economic empowerment. The opening of the Bulawayo branch should therefore lead to the opening of economic empowerment opportunities for young people in the province.
She said the bank is there to serve young people in the south of the country while her management ensures that it opens branches in every province.
Deputy Minister Simbanegavi also urged bank employees to be community-oriented in carrying out their duties.
She challenged young entrepreneurs not to hesitate to apply for bank loans.
“Young people, this is your bank and I urge you to take full advantage of it. Through its board of directors, I will ensure that the bank continually improves its working model to meet your complex and constantly evolving requirements, in line with technological changes and the economic environment in which we operate ”, she declared.
“Modern banking services should be brought to your doorstep for your economic empowerment. We want you to make a meaningful contribution to Zimbabwe’s vision of building an upper middle economy by 2030 and improving livelihoods.