Financial mentorship and linkages steer youth through COVID-19 business recovery

By Edlyne Kakibogo, Project Assistant, Markets for Youth Project, KRC Uganda.

KRC Uganda and GOAL kicked-off implementation of the Young Africa Works; Markets for Youth Program for Rwenzori and Hoima Sub Regions in May 2021 when the COVID-19 lockdown had disrupted normal life and when young people were still fresh with the ordeal of lost employment opportunities. At this time, the Markets for Youth Program became a life saver, breathing new life into their devastated social and economic life. The young women of Ruyonza Sub County Youth Women Empowerment Association (RUSWEA), one of the youth groups supported by KRC Uganda under the program in Kyegegwa District, attest to this.

The lockdown affected our group activities so hard that many members were unable to clear their saving and loan arrears”, the young women revealed.

Having suspended group meetings in compliance to Covid-19 prevention measures and reduced opportunities to earn income, some members of the group dropped due to difficulty in rising savings and paying back borrowed money. Of the 22 members, only 5 remained in the group. The group had accumulated about 800,000 Uganda shillings in bad debts.

Upon commencement of the Markets for Youth Program, the leaders of the youth groups (Youth Champions) were trained by KRC in group dynamics, Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) methodology, life skills, business development and community conversations. Having been trained in the aforementioned capacity areas, KRC’s project staff continuously made support visits to the group and held mentorship and coaching sessions. Another task was to mobilise new members to join the group. As a result, the remaining 5 committed members successfully mobilised 15 more young women to make a total of 20 members.

Rebounding from the brink of collapse a few months earlier, the group started saving afresh in April 2022 and managed to accumulate their meagre savings to a tune of 972,000 shillings in savings in July 2022. Through this small pool, the group is able to give out small loans to the members. The confidence of the young women has been restored and inspired ability to identify new opportunities. The group chairperson managed to link the group to another local organisation which supported them with a savings box. KRC further linked the group to private sector actors like Brac Seed, Excelhort Business Incubator and Centenary Bank, through which the members have received further training in financial literacy, business development and good agronomic practices. Some of the members have purchased vegetable seeds or placed their orders from Brac Seed in preparation for the planting season. The group leadership realised the need for youth to diversify their income sources and so far, trained the group members in liquid soap production.