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Naomi's market stall in Berekuso"I am a kenkey seller. Initially when we decided to trade my husband could not afford much so the profit margin was so small, life was unbearable we were always in arrears in payment of our children school fees but when I took the first loan from Friends of Africa, I now produce a lot of kenkey, sell the whole day and even take some out of the village to sell. I am very very happy because I have received another loan from them. I have now expanded my business and have even opened a bank account. Everybody in the village has seen a tremendous change for the better in my life and has been encouraging the youth to stop lazing around and take the loan and start doing something for a living."

Naomi lives in the village of Berekuso, a few miles north of Accra. She was one of the first beneficiaries of a program launched in 2008 after a successful pilot to provide small enterprise loans for young people in the area. We started with 100 loans of 100 Cedis ($100 or about £60) each and as repayments come in we have made further loans, benefiting over 500 young people by the end of 2008.

This program offers a lifeline to young people with ideas and aspirations who have no other access to finance. Our aims are to encourage enterprise rather than dependency, prevent urban drift by children and young people and encourage former members of the community to return.

Loan repayments are made over six months, after a two-week moratorium period. Interest on the loans is charged at 30%, which is manageable for the participant and covers the administrative costs. So far loans have been made mainly to expand existing enterprises, including small agricultural enterprises, processing and selling fish and kenke (the loan enables participants like Naomi to buy wholesale) and small trading - crafts, second-hand clothing etc. Loans are also made for apprenticeships, for example as carpenters, bakers and hairdressers. This provides for the formal transfer of vocational skills and enables the young person to set up on his/her own with the benefit of an experienced mentor.

Funding for this project has so far been provided largely by the Cadburys Foundation. We now seek partnerships with other corporate and private foundations in order to scale-up the program and reach more young people at risk.