What are the African youths doing wrong? : Proposal Writing and Grant Seeking.

Did you know that the grant business is a multi-billion dollar business? If the grant business was a company on its own, it would be part of the so-called Fortune 500 companies.
Young people across Africa’s many economic sectors are increasingly finding interest in writing proposals for. The ultimate objective or the underlying reason why the youths want to know about proposal writing is because ultimately they want to design the ultimate package, document or set-piece that will earn them either a target-specific, specifically designed grant. Or they want to earn non-target-specific grants by approaching the right people or organisations (potential grant makers), who will possibly want to invest in whatever the youths are proposing. These grant makers may either have been looking for that particular approach to solving a social or economic problem with their money, or because the problem the youths are proposing to solve is so noble and worth the investment as will be felt by a grant maker whilst going through the proposal.
As much as youths are innovative today, even with the pen and paper (making the grant seeking all the more competitive a process than ever before), proposal writing is not easy but with dedication to the process, the effort is worth it. A two-part question lingers still,
Why do proposals for grant seeking fail and what makes them unsuccessful when implemented?
With the diverse species of proposals intended for grant seeking, agribusiness proposals are fast gaining traction in Africa, inevitable as the youths are fast waking up to the value and potential of agriculture in uprooting them out of poverty in all its forms including working poverty.  Any idea if not well-projected, no matter how good it sounds in the mind of the bearer, is as good as its poor projection. Failure of proposals is not new to youths across all Africa and Zimbabwean youths can relate very well. Their experiences, the successes and failures on their part make for good examples to reflect on for all other African youths to learn.

In September of 2011, Old Mutual initiated the Kurera-Ukondla Youth Fund, a revolving youth fund intended to sustainably finance entrepreneurial visions of the country’s youth. There were many discrepancies from the beginning on the part of management of the grant itself and as funding proceeded through the years, the failing trickled in again and again as had been anticipated that the fund was bound to fail. Both the disbursing entities and the youths are to blame for the fail, there was not a saint I the story, not even one. Proposals both good and bad were submitted for the fund. Some were accepted some were not. Of those that were accepted, approximately 90% of the proposed projects, micro, small and medium business enterprises (MSME) never succeeded as had been planned, thought and proposed by the youth.
There are five outstanding proposal-related reasons on the part of the youth that led to the high and inflated failure to success ratio of proposed ventures:
  1. Extravagancy and financial indiscipline
As youthful desires for luxury would have it, some youths bought cars with the money among the many other ways in which they pampered themselves. Some used the money to pay the bride-prices or lobolas for their loved ones. In the end, only change from extravagant and fancy spending was invested into the businesses that were proposed and for which the grant money was earned in the first place.
Here is the problem with this situation. If a proposal is good to the paper and the endeavour is solid, thus practically viable at a stated value, the moment you divert as small as 1% of the fund money, the repercussions can be as small as 1% negative but they can actually be even higher for such a small diversion.  Suppose you have a proposal to start value addition of maize by grinding and packaging mealie meal, and your proposal succeeds to earn a grant. Then in your mind you stumble upon the idea of  “saving a little money”, thus you decide to buy a sealer and sowing machine that costs $1250 in place of the proposed standard costing $2000. You have saved $750 for uses personalized or otherwise yes, but that will cost you.
The cost lies in the unseen operating efficiency of inefficiency thereof of the cheaper machine bought in place of the standard. In the sowing and sealing process, suppose the machine releases more heat than the standard for sealing the bag or the needle holes larger than the standard making the seal-point weak. Across  our rough African terrain  with poor road networks that connect agricultural communities to lucrative markets,  poor packages will succumb to transportation pressure and will be damaged, leading to unimaginable losses; packaging gone wrong. More than thousands can be lost because you tried to save $750 for other purposes outside of the proposed use of earned grant money. Long story short, the success of a proposal is hinged on the disciplined use of the grant which the proposal earned. When you propose something, stick to the proposed plan when using money, no compromises.
  1. The fairy tale of monetary value
As much as this can sound like a poor combination of Disney and Wall Street come together, there is that problem among not only youths but a great deal of business-people in Africa. There is that tendency to attach religious or superstitious faith to business, with many believing in an unrealistic potential of making giant profits from small investments, all in the name of “faith”. So whilst writing proposals, there is a tendency to under-budget with a belief that faith or whatever fairy one believes in will magically take care of the rest.
In agriculture and agribusiness, there exist standard values that are collectively called the cost of production. To propose that you can work with a lower value in a proposal means that either you do not know what you are proposing, or you are expecting the difference to be balanced by a miracle. Where those reviewing the proposal to fund it are not well-versed with these values, it is possible for a proposal applying for a grant to be accepted. But whilst going into the venture, keep in mind that you are actually headed towards an outcome of failure from the onset. In short, when you propose any business with a standard cost of production for a given output, keep in mind that no miracle will offset a difference of under-budgeting the cost of production.
As an example, $4000 is needed to bring produce cabbages on a hectare and bring them to the market as a standard. Take away a few dollars and you could find yourself stuck with your cabbages that are ready for the market and no means to take them to the market. In the end you may fail to profit from a good crop because of it. In the case of Zimbabwean youths and the model fund used as a model of proposal failure in this article, some youths made it to be believed that they could actually work with little money to achieve great results and profits. Whilst that makes for a good credit one will earn on the part of believing in self, it makes for a terrible debt altogether because there is no magic in business, and if there is, it is surely no substitute for money or standard costs of bringing products to markets
.