A Youth focused financial institution, Empower Bank, has officially opened its doors to the public in Bulawayo.
The bank’s main purpose is to provide financial products and services to youth, who make up the largest population in the country yet are the most financially disadvantaged.
Out of Empower Bank’s total loan book, 70 percent will go towards youth and the remaining 30 percent would serve other population groups.
Located at Corner Leopold Takawira and Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Street in Bulawayo, Empower Bank is positioned to facilitate financial inclusion and provide micro finance and financial advisory and support services its products
Speaking at official opening of the bank Tuesday afternoon, Empower Board Chairman, Raymond Njanike, said these supports services included mentoring programmes, financial education, entrepreneurial skills development, networking platforms, business training initiatives among other services.
“The support services will help demystify and change the negative perception of financial matters among the youth so that they can fully utilise our facilities and realise their entrepreneurial potential,” Njanike explained.
The board chair also announced that the bank was offering RTGS $50 000 loan for Bulawayo youths on a first come basis.
He added that unlike other financial institutions, Empower Bank will not prioritise collateral but will work with the viability of the project and its capacity to create employment.
“To date the bank has disbursed above $1.2 million loans and the loan booked is largely skewed to agriculture given that our country is an agro based economy. Added to that the bank has a total of $5.09 million loan applications under various stages of the evaluation process. This is comprised largely of value chain financing and other schemes.
“We urge the youth to throng the bank branches with the applications for projects and business loans. Empower Bank is the bank for the youths. Please use it for your economic empowerment,” urged the board chair.
Guest of hour at the event, Deputy Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Yeukai Simbanegavi, said her ministry, with the support from the African Development Bank, carried out an evaluation of the Youth Development and Employment Creation Fund and other youth empowerment facilities in 2016, which recommended that a special financial service be set up to provide access to funding for youth projects.
“We are proud that Empower Bank was established in response to this recommendation through the youth development and employment creation fund that invested a total amount of US$12.5 million development,” she said.
The deputy minister highlighted that the Bulawayo branch should therefore culminate in the unlocking of economic empowerment opportunities for the youth in the province.
“I however hasten to address that the benefits from the investment in the bank branch can only be realised if the people of Bulawayo, Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North and Midlands provinces makes use of this branch to the fullest. Bring all your projects to the bank for funding even business ideas for further refinement as well as development into bankable projects,” Simbanegavi noted.
“In the same vein, I implore the bank management and staff to pay special attention to the needs of the community, they serve and provide them with class financial services they deserve at competitive terms.”
The official opening was attended by youths, Bulawayo mayor, Solomon Mguni, Minister of State for Bulawayo Metropolitan, staff from the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, representatives from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Empower Board members and captains of industry.