The Commonwealth Secretariat was chosen this week as a major partner for delivering up to US$600,000 in youth enterprise development and mentoring schemes across Africa, helping young and aspiring entrepreneurs to set up businesses and escape from poverty.
Peter Munga, chairman and founder of Equity Banking Group, one of the largest banking and micro-financing institutions in East Africa, formally invited the Secretariat to assist in delivering the programme, funded by his PK Munga Foundation, during a speech at Marlborough House, London, UK, on 26 October 2009.
‘Monumental’ problem of unemployment
“Looking at the youth today, I see a solid pillar on which hopes and aspirations of our member states and the Commonwealth will be built,” Mr Munga said. “We need to encourage them to venture in new areas, through enterprise, IT and other ventures that will help them chart a new course.”
Warning that the current economic slowdown was harming the prospects of young people across African economies, Mr Munga insisted that the “monumental” problem of unemployment was being felt “earlier and harder” by young people, and affecting their self-esteem.
“The long-term effects of this disillusionment with self and society become all too costly for us to cope with. Young people have to know they will have to navigate through this wilderness with our guidance and mentoring,” he stressed.
US$200,000 already raised
The PK Munga Foundation aims to raise a total of US$1.2 million for “mentoring, inspiring and enabling small scale farmers, small enterprise operators and the youth to achieve their dreams” – half of which (an estimated US$600,000) will be committed to youth enterprise.
Julius Kaberere, Technical Co-operation and Strategic Response Adviser at the Secretariat, said the organisation, which represents 18 African countries, will help in “implementing the youth component” of the PK Munga Foundation’s work, adding that the Secretariat would be able to “contribute ideas” on how the other half of the foundation’s funds are used.
“We will need to send a team to agree on the logistics of how the programme is going to be rolled out,” Mr Kaberere explained. “Helping young people to improve their livelihoods, lifting income through small and medium enterprises, and mentoring youth to make the right choices in life will help them become better citizens of the Commonwealth.”
Of the target US$1.2 million, $200,000 has already been raised. The $100,000 awarded to Mr Munga earlier this year by the YARA Foundation in Norway for his work to reduce hunger and poverty in Africa has already been donated to the fund, while Mr Munga has separately contributed a similar amount from his own personal fortune.
African Business of the Year
Equity Bank, which Mr Munga launched in 1984, has grown from a building society and micro-finance institution to become one of the biggest banks in East Africa. In addition to providing simple banking services for people across this region, Equity Bank has sponsored pre-university training for more than 600 students in Kenya over the past 11 years.
Today, some 4.1 million bank accounts in Kenya are held by Equity Bank, which also has branches in neighbouring Commonwealth member countries. It was named African Business of the Year at the Commonwealth Business Council and Africa Business awards earlier in July 2009.
Copyright: Commonwealth Secretariat