Leroy Dzenga Correspondent
There have been continued calls from across the board for youths to be enterprising and not sit on their laurels waiting for jobs which may not be forthcoming. Many are of the opinion that young people should be championing the creation of their own jobs and opportunities. Considered to be the creative pulse of society, the youth are also the biggest demographic in the country, according to the last census.
Which explains why there is an increasing interest in how they play their part in the country’s developmental trajectory. True to assumption, there is a decent number of brilliant ideas within the Zimbabwean youth population as has been shown by start-ups that have emerged in recent times.
Small capital businesses are becoming the mainstay of youth involvement in the country’s economic space. Drawn by their ease to establish and maintain, young people have been doing fairly well in that department. What is lacking at the moment is the growth aspect, some start-ups are nearing a decade and they have not moved an inch in terms of progress.
A quick survey of youth retail hubs like Zimpost Mall, Kwame Mall and Glen View 8 home industry shows a promising model of a targeted market specific retail trading. However, some of the businesses there have not upgraded their operations since their inception. The asset base and scope that some enterprises had in 2010 is still the same, posing serious questions on the quality of business ideas among the youths.
There is now need for a centralised incubating system that guides emerging youth-owned businesses imparting information and skills necessary for expansion. Few years back, the Ministry of Youth and Economic Empowerment, through the Youth Fund, tried to empower the youth, but their undoing was giving resources that was not galvanised by sufficient guidance on making the best out of the investment.
Earlier this year, media reports suggested that close to $40 million was unpaid in loans conferred to the youths since the inception of the now suspended financing window. This shows the tragedy of giving funding to paper-based businesses, the more useful model would be financing ideas already in motion judging from their practical potential and performance.
Before it becomes podium rhetoric that young people should be inventive in their quest to generate their own forms of employment, there should be a signal of intent from Government and business on working with youth-owned businesses. Some youths proponents have suggested that in the national procurement system, a small percentage of tenders awarded be preserved for such businesses so as to stimulate earned capital as opposed to handouts.
Handouts and loans have a problem that some people who may have access to the funding may have porous business ideas which usually result in losses as well as defaulted repayments. Done in moderation the strategic procurement quota may see other small companies breaking the tax bracket into bigger entities opening opportunities for employment and economic expansion.
A company’s growth also means their demand for operational services increases, creating tributary businesses. Research and idea development should not be neglected when pursuing active youth involvement in business as small to medium scale proprietors. New knowledge is needed probing the reasons why the initial phase of the Youth Fund and other progressive efforts have not yet yielded any fruit worth praising.
Universities and research institutions should be commissioned to find out the impediments in the current economic setup slowing down the growth of youth championed ideas in Zimbabwe. There seems to be a stagnant formula prevailing among youths in business, where the approaches employed were successful in opening up entities, but lacks energy to propel them to greater heights.
Opening up spaces for the youth to excel may limit brain drain which has seen some brilliant young Zimbabweans move to other countries with ideas originally meant to blossom at home. Authorities should regularly reach out to the likely sources of innovation to find out what new thoughts are being harboured by those who may not have access to platforms of funding.
Some business gems with brilliant ideas are hidden in a shared office in the heart of dilapidated downtown buildings, limiting their scope to conventional methods because of the need to survive. Disruptive innovators and thinkers are settling for office jobs just to put food on the table because the systems meant to help their ideas blossom are not very visible in the country.
The Ministry of Youth, through the Zimbabwe Youth Council, may need to take a leaf from the private sector and think of how they can structure the emerging business hub concept to suit public service. Right now it seems their existence may be hard to justify to a budding entrepreneur in Bikita, Mberengwa or anywhere in the country.
This may be a result of the central idea that people who need their intervention should approach them, when in actual sense principle calls for the opposite. Maybe an inter-ministerial approach may be the best remedy where the Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment join forces with the Ministry of Small to Medium Enterprises with sights to finding long-term solutions to the small growth in youth businesses.
The much touted youth dividend is not growing into anything meaningful for the greater Zimbabwean populace because access to astute business guidance is still a challenge among most youth-led projects, adding to already existing obstacles like limited funding.
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