A backlog of applications for the Women Economic Empowerment Fund has prompted the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs to suspend receipt of applications pending securement of funding, parliament was told on Friday. The Government of Botswana has to date spent atotal P155, 500,000,00on the Women Economic Empowerment Scheme since its inception. Addressing the house during minister’s question time on Friday, the Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs Edwin Batshu said since 1998 to date, 1048 projects have been assisted through the programme and 5200 jobs have been created. “The last intensive monitoring carried out by the ministry, indicated 75% success rate while 16 % were barely surviving and nine percent collapsed,” he said. Batshu was responding to Gaborone North Member of Parliament Haskins Nkaigwa, who had wanted the minister to update the house on the number of projects assisted under the scheme, the number of beneficiaries, funding disbursed to date, those on the waiting list, when the last funding was made and when will it be opened for new applicants. He explained that during the 2017/2018 financial year, the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs was allocated P30m for the programmeunder the recurrent budget, this allocation he said augmented the P20.2 m from the Alcohol levy collection. “The total amount received from the Alcohol levy by June, 2017 was six million three hundred thousand Pula. The disbursement of funds to approved projects continues in line with receipt of funds from the Alcohol levy,” he said.
According to Batshu, reviewing the programme in 2015 and 2016 respectively resulted in a very high uptake of the programme, following which the ministry registered a total number of 107,801customers who inquired on the programme. He stated that the total number ofapplications received were 4478, and by January 2017 they had a backlog of 3825, and because the backlog was continuously increasing, they suspended of receipt of applications effective 1 February 2017. “This has, therefore, compelled the ministry to work round the clock to address the backlog while efforts to get additional funding are continuing. The Ministry is desirous to resume receipt of new applications as soon as funding is available,” he said. “To date a total of 708 applications have been approved for funding at about P134, 299,252. 70. These are anticipated to create employment for 1416 beneficiaries,” he said. He indicated that the 708 approved projects are continuously being funded from available funds, while an additional 292 projects have been approved but have no funding. This, he said, means that since the review programme in 2015 and 2016, a total of 1000 proposals have been approved for funding at a cost of P198, 195,377.40 and will create employment for 2103 beneficiaries.He further stated that his ministry has since made deliberate effort to address the backlog through rigorous engagement of the project assessment committees and District Economic Development Committees (DEDCs).
As a result of this intervention, he said 292 projects were approved at a total cost of P63, 896, 124, 70 and are waiting funding. These are anticipated to createemployment for 687 beneficiaries. He, however, pointed out that this amount remains shortfall for funding and efforts to secure additional funding to augment the 2017/2018 allocation are ongoing.The minister also told Parliament that currently a total of 593 businesses are in operation. In order to improve the situation of women in Botswana, in 1998 government adopted the National Gender Programme which intensified and strengthened the Women Empowerment Programme as an integral model. The programme did not have special dispensation from government allocation during the period preceding the year 2012; rather thatits funding was subsumed within the National Gender Programme allocation. Therefore, from 1998 to 2003 the programme was funded at P300 000.00 per year and from 2003 to 2010 the programme was funded at P1 400 000.00 per year while from 2010 to 2012 it was funded at P6 200 000.00 per year and for the financial year 2012/13 the programme was funded with P11 000 000.00, which was 5 percent of the alcohol levy collection. Since 2012, the programme has been financed under the alcohol levy. Funding started with 5 percent of the collection and was increased to 10 percent in 2014/15 averaging P25 200 000.00 per year. For the period 2017/18 financial year the programme was allocated P30 000 000.00 under the recurrent budget to augment the alcohol levy.