Start-ups, youth entrepreneurship key to economic growth

According to recent statistics, more than 2,2 million young people are unemployed in Zimbabwe.

“We don’t stop going to war just because the terrain is difficult,” says Lesley Marange, the young founder and CEO of Glytime Foods, a start-up that is making waves in Zimbabwe and the region.

“We don’t need money from politicians, we want them to create an enabling environment for us to do business” — this from a 26-year-old founder of payments platform Kwingy and agricultural analytics and data company Farmhut.

These sentiments succinctly capture the mood of young entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe and the continent. Their daring youthful innovation and exuberance stands in stark contrast to the economic obstacles staked against any business, let alone start-ups.

According to recent statistics, more than 2,2 million young people are unemployed in Zimbabwe. Some of these have resorted to using their education and skills to start enterprises of all sorts. Some have more than just one gig to survive as they experiment and pivot. Sadly, not all of them succeed or are able to survive the challenges of being self-employed in this tough market.

The conversations with Marange and Ryan Katayi reflect acute frustration with an environment that puts a myriad of obstacles on the path of young people intent on building companies that have huge potential to create jobs. There is a sense that those in government and the opposition don’t think youth entrepreneurship is a priority at all and yet young voters are the biggest voting bloc in Zimbabwe. A harsher view would be that politician don’t get it and just don’t care.

Smart politicians should be sitting down, for reverse mentoring, with Marange, Katayi, Chad Mhako, Kudzai Makaza, Eleph Gula-Ndebele and Nyaradzo Dhliwayo etc. These young people have shared their wisdom on our platform. They are on the coalface of starting and running businesses in this hostile environment. They know a thing or two that could help politicians build a better economy and perhaps win votes.

For starters, there is need for an overarching youth entrepreneurship policy to harness the creativity of our young people towards sustainable economic prosperity. We need an environment that provides incentives and support for start-ups in all sectors of the economy. Zimbabwe needs specific initiatives to attract investments into a digital and data economy. These young people are a great resource in pointing us towards what needs to be in place before we reach out to international players.

We believe that there is a large new economy in Zimbabwe waiting to be natured that can support traditional sectors like agriculture, tourism and mining. We need more creative thinking on how to entice the young people in the diaspora and those at home to grow the renewable energy sector in a smart and efficient way.

Deliberate support for start-ups and youth entrepreneurship will inject life into our economy and create thousands of jobs. The virtuous cycle from this would change our economy forever.


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