Nqobile Tshili, Business Correspondent
EMPOWER Bank yesterday officially opened its first Bulawayo branch pledging a $50 000 non-collateral loan package to local entrepreneurs with viable project proposals on a first come and first serve basis.
The micro finance institution was set up by Government last year with a bias towards financing youth entrepreneurs.
President Mnangagwa opened the first branch in Harare in July last year with $12,5 million seed money.
Yesterday’s official opening positions the bank for wider service in the southern region with plans to set up more branches across the country’s 10 provinces.
In his official opening remarks, Empower Bank board chairman Mr Raymond Njanike said as a gift to Bulawayo entrepreneurs, the bank was extending a $50 000 non-collateral loan facility to youths who will approach the bank on a first come first serve basis.
“We are making a pledge of $50 000 for Bulawayo youths to come on a first come first serve to get the money, to borrow the money but with a viable project. No collateral. The $50 000 is the money that we have given to Bulawayo,” said Mr Njanike.
He said the bank has 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 while most financial institutions were demanding collateral before allocating loans, Empower Bank was more concerned with the viability of a project.
“We have various flexible collateral measures in place to ensure that our youths are not disqualified based on lack of collateral. We don’t qualify youths based on collateral. We focus on product viability, its capacity to create employment when assessing the loan applications. We are flexible on the form of security requirement,” he added.
Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Deputy Minister Yeukai Simbanegavi said the opening of the bank shows Government’s commitment towards reaching young entrepreneurs across the country.
She said the bank was tailor-made to address problems affecting creative youths who failed to access capital to grow their businesses.
“The bank has a mandate of designing and offering financial services and products tailor-made to the unique needs of young entrepreneurs and other Zimbabweans. The bank is open to all Zimbabweans with major focus on the youths,” said the Deputy Minister.
“The bank is therefore, here to address one of the major obstacles for youth economic participation, limited access to capital so that youths achieve effective economic empowerment. The opening of the Bulawayo branch should therefore, culminate in the unlocking of economic empowerment opportunities for the youths in the province.”
She said the bank was there to serve youths across the southern parts of the country while its management works on ensuring that it opens branches in each province.
Deputy Minister Simbanegavi also urged bank staffers to be community oriented while executing their duties.
She challenged young entrepreneurs not to shy away from seeking bank loans.
“Youths, this is your bank and I urge you to make use of it to the full. Through its board, I will ensure that the bank continuously improves its working model to meet your ever-changing complex requirements in line with changes in technology and the economic environment that we operate in,” she said.
“Modern banking facilities should be brought to your doorstep for your economic empowerment. We want you to contribute meaningfully towards Zimbabwe’s vision of building an upper middle economy by the year 2030 and improve livelihoods.”