***This blog was originally posted on YouLead's Facebook Page, by Author Chris Stanley***
When the labour market fails industrious youth often seek to stand on their own. However, young entrepreneurs face numerous barriers; one major challenge is access to finance. Kate Ekpeyong, can stand proud as a woman entrepreneur who is proving to both peers and financial institutions that the youth of Cross River State are a worthwhile investment.
After her YouLead training Kate decided to enter poultry farming. Not without difficulties, Kate worked to establish a competitive business with reliable customers from hotels that purchase her products to the local waterleaf farmers who purchase poultry waste for fertilizer. From her newly established business Kate could contribute to the school fees of her siblings. Moreover, when family tragedy struck she could pay for the expenses of her father’s burial.
When Kate was ready to expand her business, she was faced with a complex and confusing credit market; one that seemed closed to youth-led businesses that often lack collateral assets, financial resources, and years of experience. Eager to expand her business Kate turned to unofficial moneylenders. “I had to borrow from money-lenders who had a very high interest rate, for every 150,000 Naira, they would charge 35,000 Naira per month as interest.” Although Kate could expand, she understood that the loan conditions constrained the sustainable growth of her business.
The YouLead project is acutely aware that access to finance has both a social and economic dimension. In addition to Cuso International, the YouLead project Financial Inclusion team is supported by MEDA Canada, to strengthen capacity of its partner banks to develop youth friendly services for those who are disadvantaged in the entrepreneurial population. With support from the YouLead and UNICAL Microfinance Bank, Kate was guided through the process of obtaining a micro loan.
“When I heard about the micro financing loans from the YouLead session, I applied. Microfinance banks have a low interest rate and so I can borrow 250,000 and only pay 18,000 as interest in 6 months.”
With her new loan, Kate feels more secure in the future of her business and in her own abilities. Kate believes her experience can give hope to others:
“I want to be a role model to my sisters and my community ... Being a woman does not stop you from going into business.”