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Burkina Faso: Youth and women turn to financial institutions to realize their projects

Lucienne Zongo is happy this morning because she has received 500,000 FCFA ($927 US) from a government lending agency called Fonds d’Appui aux Initiatives des Jeunes, or FAIJ. Mrs. Zongo is 35 and manages an electrical equipment shop in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.

She sells wires, electrical wire protection tubes, switches, and tools for electrical installations. The funds from FAIJ will help her consolidate her business. The conditions of the loan were good: she pays a little more than 20,000 FCFA ($37 US) per month. And the interest wasn’t high: a total of 40,000 ($74) to be repaid over three years.

FAIJ is a government agency that was created in 2007 to offer young people a financing option that is adapted to their conditions. Over 14 years, it has provided financing to more than 11,000 projects, sharing more than ten billion francs.

However, not everyone has been as lucky as Mrs. Zongo. The government doesn’t have the means to support projects from all women and youth. Thus, both private and public financing options were created to help women and young people implement their projects.

More than half of the population in Burkina Faso are women and one-third are young people. Due to socio-cultural constraints, most women have not attended school. Because of inadequate infrastructure and staff, many youth either did not attend school or dropped out early. Many graduates are unable to find jobs. Faced with this tough situation, young people and women find it difficult to get a job or a bank loan to support their activities. So they turn to aid and funding organizations to finance their enterprises.

Miss Blandine Soala owns and operates a gym in Ziniaré, about 30 kilometres from Ouagadougou. Miss Soala is satisfied with her business and praises the government lending agency. She explains, “The funding from Fonds d’Appui aux Initiatives des Jeunes is great. It allowed me to strengthen the equipment in my gym. I was missing a lot of things to function.”

In July, Miss Soala received a loan of 1,300,000 FCFA (approximately $2,400 US) to strengthen her gym project. Miss Soala said she had lost hope of receiving funding because it took so long to process her proposal. She explains, “I waited eight months after filing my proposal before I was called. Many applicants did not receive this funding. I benefited from it, thank God.” Miss Soala is now earning profits of up to 100,000 FCFA ($185 US) per month.

Tibila Ouedraogo also lives in Ziniaré, and is a mechanic and sells car decoration items. Mr. Ouedraogo has had a lot of business since he received 300,000 FCFA ($555 US) in November 2020. He says, “This loan has helped me a lot. I even opened a second small shop selling auto and motorcycle parts.”

IA couple of kilometres outside of Koudougou in central-west Burkina Faso, Mrs. Adjarata Kabore produces cabbages, onions, and tomatoes on one-and-a-half hectares of garden plots. She was able to enlarge her field by half a hectare thanks to a loan of 400,000 FCFA ($740 US) she obtained in 2017. She also erected a wire fence around her field and bought a motor pump to ease watering. She used to draw water from a well herself, which was difficult for Mrs. Kabore, who now makes more 500,000 FCFA ($925 US) at the end of the season.

While she is delighted that she received the loan because it makes things easier for her and increases her profits, she says it wasn’t easy to get financing. She says, “It is not easy to obtain funding for our projects. On the day of filing the application, we lined up in the rain. And out of the 50 of us, only two were selected.”

Adama Ouedraogo agrees that it is not easy to get funding. In his thirties, he returned to the funding agency to inquire about his application. But the news was not good and he is still waiting. Discouraged and a little bitter, he says that he regrets not having tried his luck with public service competitions like many young people. He explains, “I created my project with 2,000,000 FCFA ($3,700 US) and now I’m having trouble getting the funding to start it.”

Funding is scarce and there’s growing demand. And while there are many financing options, they often lack funds. The state doesn’t have enough resources to support every young person and all of their ambitions.

This story was produced for the VIMPlus project. ViMPlus is part of USAID’s Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced (RISE) program, which supports vulnerable communities in Burkina Faso and Niger to effectively prepare for and manage recurrent crises and pursue sustainable pathways out of poverty.