The Youth Entrepreneurship Programme (YEP) is an initiative that was started in the year 2016. This initiative is the brainchild of a strategic partnership between CBZ and Empowered Life Trust. The crux of the programme is to capacitate young people with entrepreneurial skills. Annually since 2016, they hold the YEP Awards where they recognize and reward outstanding young entrepreneurs. The eligible young people for this initiative are those aged between 18 and 35 (formerly 18 and 30). Since its inception, the programme has managed to help in the establishment of 400 youth-owned businesses.

The YEP

Every year calls for applications are made. Young people are selected using laid down criteria. Selections are done from all the local provinces. Ever since 2018, they extended their selection pool to include young people in rural areas. The programme is bent on empowering young entrepreneurs. The basic approaches in term of the skills imparted entail empirical and practical strategies in business. The goal is to build capacity in young entrepreneurs to be able to develop businesses that grow instead of just surviving. At least 3000 young entrepreneurs have been trained since the birth of the programme 3 years ago.

The YEP2019 Awards

According to CBZ, this year’s edition was divided into two categories namely, startups and established businesses. Startups are businesses still at the idea stage – spanning up to 1 year of operation.  Established businesses are those businesses that have been operating for a maximum of 3 years. For the startups’ category the first place prize is RTGS$12000 whilst for the established businesses it is RTGS$10000. Applicants undergo rigorous training sessions under a mentor or coach. This includes a month-long training programme conducted online.

There will be a series of further selection processes which will ultimately culminate into just 20 applicants who battle it out at a boot camp. From those 20 only 10 will be further singled out and they will be awarded accordingly. The awards ceremony shall be held sometime early 2020. Interested young entrepreneurs can apply by visiting any CBZ branch or visiting the CBZ website. Applications for this year’s edition were open between 1 and 23 August. So watch out for next year’s edition so that you also take a shot at this.

This year’s edition was, in essence, the fourth season. The comprehensive list of the winners is still to be published but so far I managed to gather who the top 5 in the startups’ category are. They are Tracy Mapfumo, Josphat Nyika, Vhusani Mtetwa, Vimbai Jaricha and Ethan Moyo (from first to the fifth position in that order).

Some Talking Points

First of all, there is no question about how CBZ is leading locally in terms of empowering young entrepreneurs. This is highly commendable and calls upon other big brands to do the same. I learnt that CBZ took position 16th in this year’s Super Brands Awards. I believe it would be a great thing if all super brands come up with initiatives to stimulate and enhance youth participation in entrepreneurship.

It is also very encouraging to see so many concerted efforts from various angles directed at developing the startups’ culture in Zimbabwe. We are seeing a surge in co-working spaces, incubators and accelerators amongst others. There are now quite a significant number of tech hubs in the country too. All this is central to cultivating the startups’ culture in Zimbabwe especially with particular focus on the young people.

Another factor in the mix is the government’s new stance as shown by the contents of the 2020 National Budget. If you have taken time to go through it you will realize that the government has decided to seriously consider young people. I recently wrote an article where I discussed some of the youth-oriented aspects that were covered in that budget statement. A ZWL$500 million National Venture Capital Fund has been established that will be earmarked for financing youth startups. There will now be a Youth Employment Tax Incentive (YETI) which will reward companies or businesses that employ young people.

So, all in all, it is apparent the appreciation of the key role young people can play in economic development is spiking. If this trajectory is maintained we are sure to begin seeing marked development in the country. After all, the young people of today are 100% of the future. As a young entrepreneur, be always on the lookout for initiatives meant for young people. More and more of such initiatives are being rolled out so do not miss them.