The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE) is an empowerment program that is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherland. It is a 6-year program instituted to cushion the effects of underemployment and unemployment in North Africa, the Middle East, West Africa, East Africa, and most parts of Sub-Saharan Africa where there are high levels of unemployment and poverty.
The Challenge Fund for Your Employment was also set up to cater to many youths in the Middle East and Africa who are bereft of relevant digital skills which can drive personal and economic development. This lack of digital skills was not only found amongst illiterates but was also found among graduates. This program will provide training on digital skills that will make them employable and in turn, help economic growth in their various counties. The fund will not stop at just helping these youths acquire digital skills, they would also provide a link or access to potential employers.
The Fund hopes to empower 200, 000 youths in Africa and the Middle East from ages 15 to 35. This support will come by supporting employment initiatives in these two regions.
The fund aims to partner with relevant organizations in the regions to provide access to better or new employment for youths. The program is out to look for people who have vibrant ideas that can be scaled up and used to provide employment. The program is an equal opportunity program, providing 50% of the opportunities to young women which is in line with the 5th SDG goal.
The Fund acknowledges the private sector’s role in achieving their goal and as such, they welcome consortium and partnerships, responses, market-based answers, and ideas that can help in the actualization of the goal. The Fund sees the private sector as the most important ally in the fight against unemployment.
There are certain criteria for the selection of projects that the Fund will support. First, they must not be all-ready existing projects. The fund is looking for new projects that would not kick-off unless funded. The Fund will also take into consideration, the type of project, the risk involved in its execution, and the employment potential of such project, especially for young women. The Fund either via technical assistance or investment will support the new project with 10 to 50% of the total budget of the project.
For people with genius ideas and who are looking forward to the Fund for grants, loans, or guidance, they will demonstrate how sustainable their ideas would be. Would the project self-generate income that would keep it running even when the support from the Fund ends? The answers to these questions will serve as a proposal to be granted funds.
Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund
While the Challenge Fund for Youth Employment isn’t entitled to Africans only, the African Enterprise Challenge Fund is limited to Africa, and the fund has to do with improving the business level and growth of the continent. While the other is focused on improving the level of employment, this fund is strictly for business.
The fund is readily made available to young people whose business model proves efficient for the growth, development, and further employment of other Africans. People submit applications for the fund, the procedure to follow it up is made known, and the receivers of the loan are trained and guided on the use of the loan.
The website of the African Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) lists the objectives of the fund. Here they are:
- Support brilliant and sustainable business projects that can positively impact on the economic outcomes of households in the rural areas.
- Improving agribusiness and giving rural households access to the agribusiness market.
- Encourage the production and use of affordable technologies for the benefit of the poor in rural areas.
- Partnering with the private sector and acting as a catalyst for their growth.
The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund has sectors it focuses on. These sectors are the ones that are considered vital to the growth of the economy of a country. One of such sectors is the agriculture and agribusiness sector.
Africa’s demand for food is staggering, will keep growing and is expected to reach 1 trillion dollars around 2050. The Fund will help the agricultural sector by providing access to better seed varieties for planting, livestock vaccines, and novel farming systems. It will also provide non-collateral loans for farmers so they can farm on a large scale. Lastly, the fund will help fragile states to reconstruct agribusiness in countries like South Sudan, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Somalia, and Democratic Republic of Congo.
The second sector of impact is power supply. One of the major setbacks in Africa is lack of steady power supply and this impacts negatively on the productivity of businesses. The Fund invests in services that will provide access to clean and renewable energy sources. The goal is for power to reach even the remotest part of Africa.
The Fund is also interested in investing in products and services that can aid rural dwellers and farmers to adapt properly to climate change. The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund will also help rural dwellers access finance for the purchase of clean energy. These sources of clean and renewable energy like solar power systems, small hydro plants and biogas are made available at subsidized prices so rural dwellers can afford them.
The African Enterprise Challenge Fund was set up in 2008 and has raised over 356 million dollars for 268 business in 26 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. The AECF’s goal is to double this number in two years and ensure that the vision of ‘A Prosperous and Enterprising Rural Africa’ is birthed.