Zimbabwe Review

Reflections on Zimbabwe

How tough times are fostering Zimbabwean entrepreneurship

Posted by CM on December 7, 2007

There is a silver lining to everything, even the depressing political and economic morass Zimbabwe is in.

Several years of hyper-inflation have turned the notion of middle-class salaried stability completely upside down. Many now hold onto their jobs for various benefits, such s a company car for those lucky enough to have one, than for the salary. That car may be worth more for the opportunities it gives one to earn extra income than for any “prestige” value.

Formal education now has a lower value than at any time in Zimbabwe’s short history because material well-being and “stability and respectability” can no longer be assured by one’s job. How well one does now has more to do with one’s sheer drive and determination than on paper qualifications.

Many employed people ask themselves if the costs and logistics of going to work are worth the benefits, or if they would not be better off finding something else to do on their own, with all the associated risks of that. Almost everybody who remains in employment has one or several things on the side to supplement their income.

A lot of this entrepreneurship is forced by the situation, rather than voluntary, but it is a good overall development for the country. Hopefully the lessons learned and the widened entrepreneurial culture will remain even when relatively normal times return to Zimbabwe.

Here’s an article on Bizcovering about how tough times are forcing many people to think in new ways:

Zimbabwe’s Economic Challenges Promote Entrepreneurship

Zimbabwe’s informal sector, previously dominated by low-income groups is poised for growth as more people resort to self-help and income generating projects, thus creating thousands of jobs for locals and contributing to the mainstream economy. Faced with rising unemployment levels orchestrated by the current economic climate, many Zimbabweans have taken up the challenge of reviving the economy through setting up business enterprises.

This new drive has seen small to medium scale industries being created and run by ordinary Zimbabweans who previously did not dream of owning or running a business. While five years ago, people would jostle for jobs at factories in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city and industrial hub, these days the slogan is: “Create your own job” and contribute to national development.

Government figures show that about 80 percent of the Zimbabwean economy is in the hands of small businesses, i.e. small farmers, small miners, small producers, small exporters and small marketers. All of these people combined form a big part of the economy.

The small to medium enterprises (SME) sector has grown to become one of the biggest employers in Zimbabwe, particularly at a time when employment within the formal sector has shrunk rapidly.

According to estimates from the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, at least 70 percent of Zimbabwe’s working population is employed in the informal sector. This figure could rise as more and more people are developing their entrepreneurial skills through vocational training so as to be able to venture into product-manufacturing businesses.

Two young men in Bulawayo have demonstrated that building a successful business enterprise does not require one to have a Masters in Business Administration or plenty of capital, but sheer determination and focus. The two, Derrick Dube and Easy Kazeze both aged 24, have been running a successful artifacts business along the Bulawayo-Beitbridge road, one of the country’s busiest highways.

What started off as a hobby for the two young men in their backyards has turned out to be a vibrant business enterprise, earning their families much-needed income. Made from a special type of reed grass, their household range of products e.g. bar stools, hanging chairs, ornaments etc which are in demand locally are now finding their way onto the export market.

“My success is a result of hard work and determination after years of suffering. I could not get a job because I didn’t have any qualifications, in the end a friend convinced me to venture into business and become my own employer,” said Kazeze.

This was not the case for his business partner, Dube, who was retrenched from a brick-making firm three years ago, when the company streamlined its activities following a dip in the construction business. “I toiled for years, trying to find another job, but companies were not employing anymore”.

“I never really thought I could do something for myself, starting a business was never in my mind. I loved art so much and during my spare time, I used to make small ornaments which I displayed in my home. I never thought, this could be a talent that I could explore and develop,” said Dube.

The article also talks about the difficulties entrepreneurs face with capital, but this is true anywhere in the world, and part of successful entrepreneurship is just making a way where there is no way, like Dube and Kazeze have done.

Once having learned to control their destiny in the way they are doing, it is very unlikely that they will ever be satisfied with toeing somebody else’s line in formal jobs. We need people like this just as much as we need good employees in the formal sector.


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