EDITORIAL COMMENT: Women’s Bank must stick to mandate

The ability to mobilise capital remains a herculean task for many businesses, both existing and new ones in Zimbabwe and any news of a possibility of cheap capital will be most welcome.

For many small businesses, savings, support from family members and micro-finance loans, among others, have been the main source of start-up capital, with the latter attracting huge premiums. In communities such as Zimbabwe where marriages in communion of properties are not common, most documents, including tittle deeds for houses, company or business premises, are registered only in the husband’s name.

This is so, despite invaluable contributions by the women towards the acquisition of such properties, making it a tall order for woman to secure loans from conventional banks to start or expand their businesses. It is against this backdrop that Government’s idea of forming a Women’s Bank is a welcome development as it is seen as part of a solution to women’s challenges of mobilising capital to start businesses or retool existing ones.

In the Business section of this paper yesterday we reported Women and Youth Affairs Minister Sithembiso Nyoni saying the much awaited Women’s Bank was set to open next month and that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe was in the process of inspecting its structures and other outstanding issues. Government has allocated $10 million for its capitalisation in the 2018 National Budget.

“I can safely say that all is set for the opening of the micro-finance bank in a few weeks; we are waiting for the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to do a pre-opening visit soon. The information and communication technology issues are now intact and the staff is already in place.

“We are working flat out to ensure that we are within schedule. The board has already been appointed and all the workers are on the ground, ready to start,” said Minister Nyoni.

It is our sincere hope this time the bank will indeed be opened in February as the Minister announced after which the women will start submitting their applications for funding. We believe this time the bank will not remain a pipe dream for women out there yearning for funding.

It is our humble submission that the bank should be led by patriotic and dedicated managers who put the aspirations and dreams of the hardworking Zimbabwean women first instead of pursuing selfish individual interests.

It would be a sad development to start reading in the news of managers advancing huge loans to themselves or friends at the expense of the intended beneficiaries. The basis of funding should be non-partisan and the adopted criteria should be religiously adhered to.

From experience with youths empowerment funds, where undeserving politicians and ministers ended up looting the money, we hope the leadership has learnt something and forgotten nothing.

A replica of previous bad experiences has the effect of eroding the confidence that is slowly building on the market — zero tolerance for corruption in the economy and high levels of professionalism and probity are needed. It’s high time that as a country we go back to basics and women politicians should not be allowed to arm-twist the processes for personal gains.

There should be an information blitz nationwide so that all Zimbabwean women regardless of colour, geographical location or beliefs and social standing, benefit from the bank that take advantage of People’s Own Savings Bank’s network of branches to reach as many people as possible.

Before or during the process of disbursing the money, we suggest basic business management courses need to be undertaken by the ministry to avoid flushing the money down the drain.

For those who are already in business and are doing well in terms of managing their finances, this should not be necessary. Those trying business for the first time need some coaching for them to understand the basics of managing finances.

In business, the basic tenet is we pay for everything we want and as such, money borrowed from the Women’s Bank should be paid back for others to benefit from it as a revolving fund.

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