Following her delivery of the 2024/25 financial year budget speech, Minister of Finance Peggy Serame hosted the Youth Budget Analysis event.
During this gathering, she interacted with youth leaders and advocates to discuss the budget allocations and provisions concerning Botswana’s youth demographic.
Central to the discussions was the Chema Chema Fund, introduced by Serame in her budget speech as a revolving fund with the aim of transforming the informal sector and generating additional employment opportunities. The government allocated an initial capital of P200 million to this initiative.
Serame assured the youth that the fund would leverage the guidelines established for the informal sector during the COVID-19 pandemic to streamline and facilitate financing for this sector, ensuring accessibility and ease of access.
“The guidelines and frameworks for the program will be available within this month,” she said. Adding that next month, her ministry will conduct intensive campaigns through the media, Kgotla meetings and workshops.
“We are hoping that by the beginning of April, the funds will start to be disbursed,” she said as she urged would-be beneficiaries of the fund to pay back loans to enable more youth to benefit.
During a panel discussion on the budget, young participants voiced optimism that the fund would tackle youth unemployment. However, they urged the Minister to appoint a custodian aligned with the needs of both the youth and the informal sector to effectively administer the fund.
“The fund custodian has to be in touch with what is on the ground and in tune with the ideas we have as players within the industry,” one youth representative, Didintle Moreki.
“We do not duplicate existing financial services products provided by the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) or the Youth Development Fund (YDF).”
He expressed hope that Chema Chema will be open to funding innovative, creative and unique ideas by the youth. He suggested that the fund scope should extend beyond seed funding to help upscale startups and grow them into “unicorns.”
“Hopefully, the government will see the interest generated by the fund and increase the initial capital injection from P200 million to at least P1 billion,” said Moreki, the Founder of Organics Natural Skincare and a member of Global Sharpers Botswana.
Other panelists labelled the budget ‘youth-centered’ saying that it prioritises areas that have great potential to stimulate economic growth and create employment among the youth, which has a high prevalence of unemployment.
For example, a representative from the University of Botswana Economics and Politics societies, Thulani Mpete noted substantial increases in research and development as well as increases in sport and creative arts.
Mpete noted that he was not surprised by the fiscal expansion proposed by the Minister in her budget speech given the country’s economic growth, however, he noted with concern at how this expansion will be mitigated with the high risk of inflation.
“History has shown us that once the government increases expenditure through the economy there tends to be a high risk of inflation and given the situation that we are currently experiencing in Botswana; tertiary students bear the most brunt of inflation. Therefore, I want to know exactly how the ministry plans to mitigate inflation given this expansionary fiscal policy,” he said.
Mpete additionally called for an audit of the Ministry of Education & Skills Development, which was allocated the largest share of the ministerial current budget amounting to P15.54 billion, which is 24.4 percent of the proposed recurrent budget.
“It is dismaying that year after year, billions of Pula are pumped into this particular ministry while it continues to perform poorly, a prime example is the poor results of the recently released Junior Certificate Examinations (JCE). There needs to be an audit as to how this money is exactly being spent,” he said.
During the youth budget analysis, participants raised various issues, including the decentralisation of government services, the need for impact reporting to enhance accountability, limited access to land—critical for agricultural funding, the necessity of setting specific targets to mitigate youth unemployment, and a call for a revamped education curriculum integrating sought-after skills such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.