Association for Vendors and Marketeers (AVEMA) president Abel Chikwa has described the Presidential Initiative Empowerment Fund as a flop and called for its rebranding if it is to be effective.
Mr. Chikwa said the empowerment fund programme initiated by President Edgar Lungu was unsustainable in its current state as beneficiaries were refusing to pay back the loans they got under the programme.
“The Presidential Empowerment programme needs to be rebranded and turned into a Micro-Finance Institution where marketeers and vendors will be collecting loans and legally be compelled to pay back at the end of the month. Unlike the current situation where marketeers are getting loans and then refuse to pay back thereby hindering the progress of the programme,” Mr. Chikwa stated.
He said the failure to pay back the loans was disadvantaging other eligible beneficiaries from receiving loans.
He stated that the empowerment initiative was a revolving fund where beneficiaries were supposed to receive loans and pay back at the end of the month to allow others to get money in the subsequent months.
Mr. Chikwa further noted that currently, only a few marketeers and vendors could access the funds due to the low repayment compliance levels by those who benefitted earlier.
He also observed that the Presidential Empowerment Fund was politicized prior to the August 11, 2016 general elections which he said was contributing to people’s refusal to pay back the loans once they obtained the money.
Meanwhile, Kitwe District Presidential Empowerment Fund Coordinator, Lazalous Chabala said the marketeers and vendors empowerment programme was slow due to lack of funds to give out since first beneficiaries were refusing to pay back the loans.
Mr. Chabala said the empowerment initiative was a revolving fund empowerment which cannot continue if beneficiaries were not paying back.
He however noted that the loans were boosting the businesses of the beneficiaries stating that poverty could be reduced if more marketeers benefited from the President’s initiative.
The Presidential Empowerment Initiative was President Lungu’s brainchild for marketeers and vendors in an effort to help them boost their businesses.
Recently, there was an outcry from marketeers that the loans were being given to only a few Patriotic Front (PF) members and their families.