A Guide to Youth Challenge Fund (YCF) Funding

Updated on 21 July 2023

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Youth Challenge Fund

Youth entrepreneurs form the future of the South African economy. In order to stimulate economic growth in young businesses, the government offers various youth business support and funding opportunities. One of these is the Youth Challenge Fund.

If you’re interested in pursuing funding for your business, this quick guide covers everything you need to know about the Youth Challenge Fund and how to apply for it.

What is the Youth Challenge Fund?

The Youth Challenge Fund (YCF) is a youth startup programme that provides support and funding to certain youth entrepreneurs and businesses. The programme is designed to stimulate and establish youth-owned business growth. This aims to improve job creation and grow the economy through investing in young businesses.

A major focus of the Youth Challenge Fund is to promote digital skills to young entrepreneurs. The programme is not only focused on funding businesses, but it provides support, mentorship, and business development support.

Who is Eligible for YCF Funding?

Not all youth businesses can apply for YCF funding. The YCF works in line with the National Youth Policy, and provides support to youth startup businesses that meet the following criteria:

  • Applicants need to be between the ages of 18 – 35
  • The business must be properly registered with the CIPC and must be prepared to register with SARS and UIF
  • The business needs to be 100% South African owned
  • Applicants must be prepared to participate in business development support and mentorship, at both the pre and post-stages of launching the business
  • The business idea must be commercially viable, feasible, and sustainable

Importantly, any applicants to the YCF need to have a hands-on role in the day-to-day running of the business. At least one member must be a full-time employee of the company – particularly the majority shareholder or the main applicant.

Who is Not Eligible for YCF Funding?

Applications for YCF funding will be rejected if:

  • The funding is for paying off an already-owed debt
  • The applicant is a government or SOE official
  • The applicant has a history of fraud and corruption
  • The applicant is an unrehabilitated insolvent
  • The business falls under gambling, pyramid sales schemes, loan sharking, or any illegal activities

How to Apply for YCF Funding

Youth entrepreneurs can apply for funding by registering a profile on the SEFA portal, where applications can be submitted. Funding queries can also be sent to the YCF Hotline on 012 748 9600 or by email: helpline@sefa.org.za. If your small business is seeking non-financial support, your application will be referred to Seda.

The YCF could be a valuable programme for any young entrepreneurs seeking funding and business development support.

It’s also important to understand what other government and private support programmes are available for youth entrepreneurs. For example, private organizations, such as MTN, offer a business support mechanism for youth, while other government support options, like Seda, are also available. Consider the different funding and support options available, as they could be the secret to successfully launching and growing your business.


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