Parliament on Friday adopted a motion calling for the transformation of the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) Young Farmers Fund to a Youth Entrepreneurship Fund in order to broaden its scope.
The motion was tabled by Member of Parliament for Kgalagadi North Itumeleng Moipisi who argued that the eight year-old Young Farmers Fund has enjoyed high submission rate and on a monthly average only eight youth farmers were assisted with approximately P3.5 million. To date the fund has assisted 594 businesses to the tune of P238 million and created employment for over 2000 people.
The legislator further argued that there is a window of opportunity to broaden CEDA and accommodate other sectors to develop the youth. With its vast experience CEDA is said to be well placed to mentor youth entrepreneurs, he noted. Sectors proposed for inclusion in the fund are the Information and Communication Technology (ICT), tourism, entertainment, tailoring, services and leather works.
“This is an opportunity to grow CEDA and attract youth to other sectors such as ICT and tourism especially females,” he stated as a matter of fact. MP for Boteti North Slumber Tsogwane who supported the motion noted that Batswana are not actively involved in the tourism sector and there is a need to help them venture into the sector hence the motion came at the right time.
He pointed out that it is important to widen the funding scope and enable young people to venture into activities they have passion in. “Farming is currently constrained by lack of land and water hence frustrating to venture into.”
Molepolole North MP, Mohammed Khan opposed the motion saying the Fund was created to attract the youth into farming and it has worked therefore there is no reason change its operations. He added that CEDA could still fund young people who want to venture into other sectors as long as they come up with viable projects.
“Botswana need farmers to be self-sufficient in food production if we kill that opportunity we will never be able to grow the agricultural sector,” said Khan. According to him, reduced farming activities will slow down rural areas development and increase migration to urban areas. For his part Shaw Kgathi of Bobirwa said the transformation will enable women to venture into entrepreneurship as they are lagging behind as well as provide alternative to youth empowerment.
Opposing the motion Ndaba Gaolathe -Gaborone Bonnington South MP, said there is need to create an ecosystem that will create youth entrepreneurship and also an environment that will enable research, capacity building and funding. He suggested that government should instead develop several sectorial funds especially within the mining, energy, technology, creative industry, food sectors and a generalised fund that will be administered by a specialised youth entrepreneurship agency.