Let’s be real‚ talk is cheap and business like they say‚ is always about the commas. And in business‚ there are few if any‚ who walk the talk. This is what makes the difference between those who have made it and those who are still to make it. But one platform that seeks to level the playing field through sharing of ideas is called “The Shift”.This is a monthly affair which draws some of Harare’s finest yuppies who are running their own businesses. Ladies come dressed to the nines while men always look elegant. And when it is time to turn on the vibe‚ the attendants break into dance and song by guest performing artistes.
One of first artistes to grace the event was gospel prodigy Thembelami who rocked the crowd.
From the kilometre long convoy of top of the range cars to the glitz and glamour associated with “The Shift”‚ one would be forgiven for thinking that there is a new movement or church in town. Boy oh boy‚ there are people who know how to make things happen. The Shift was founded by flamboyant Harare yuppie — Chamu Chiwanza‚ to demystify the fact that it is better to be European or American.
The 36-year-old Chamu said the gathering draws men and women at the Meikles Hotel where they share and discuss business opportunities. According to Chiwanza‚ there is enough politics such that some people find it difficult to openly discuss business without being aligned to a political party.
As much as Chiwanza is the president of the Affirmative Action Group‚ he says it was by and large different from “The Shift”.
“I established a platform called The Shift‚ which draws a consortium of young entrepreneurs to discuss nothing but business. It is apolitical‚ non-religious and it seeks to decolonise the minds of young people from mental slavery like what the legendary Bob Marley sang.
“The idea came about after realising that the education system does not address the business side of things. It does not tell us we can own the hospitals where we are doctors or to be the owners of schools where we teach‚” Chiwanza said.
“The Shift”‚ Chiwanza said‚ sought to transform the lives of people and advance the development of women.
“Women need to be empowered psychologically so that they have the capacity to venture into mainstream business without using the so-called Beijing mantra.
“We also want to rid our youths from drugs so that we don’t breed a generation of delinquency. In other words‚ we want to demystify the oft-common thinking that it’s better to be European or an American.
“For instance‚ the Holy Bible has been there since way back and up to now the preachers are still explaining it and that is the approach we are taking. We will continue talking business until people are empowered‚” Chiwanza said.
Asked why he founded “The Shift” when he was already the president of AAG‚ Chiwanza said the pressure group was more or less political.
“‘The Shift’ is by and large a neutral platform where solutions to current economic problems bedevilling Zimbabwe are proffered. We want a space for discussions without being labelled or politicised. There is too much political polarisation and when I speak as AAG president I have to watch what I say.
“‘The Shift’ provides for candid and intelligent talk without minding about the politics of the day‚” Chiwanza said. Chiwanza said it was not the minds that needed to be changed but the mindsets.
“As far as I can remember there is nothing wrong with our minds but our mindsets which need to be changed.
“For instance‚ there are people who have been sweets vendors for 50 years and they have not prospered.
“So what we need to do with those men and women is to bring them to ‘The Shift’ and make them see the bigger picture. There is no doubt that the economy of this country is now controlled by the SME’s but the point is we have to formalise the informal sector so that it contributes to the mainstream economy‚” Chiwanza said.
So far‚ he said‚ “The Shift” has managed to draw some of the brainiest young businesspeople who not only talk about problems affecting the economy but also offer solutions.
“Look‚ it is well and good to talk about problems but then it is all the more gratifying to give solutions to those problems that transform lives. We cannot continue to talk about how things are tough but we need to be positive and turn on the positive vibe‚” he said. Chiwanza believes that the appeal of “The Shift” hinges on the fact that it is about business.
“You see‚ the issues we discuss relate to a lot of businesspeople and those who aspire to go into serious business. The guest speakers are carefully chosen and it is people who add value to the discussions‚” he said.
Attendance at “The Shift” is free and the session starts at 8am with a prayer before guest speakers take to the podium until 12 noon.
“We do not charge or coerce people to attend ‘The Shift’. The last time we hosted the forum we had a full house with our guest speaker Farai Gundani‚ she has done wonders overseas particularly in the United States and she is proudly Zimbabwean.
“She is also one of our guest speakers today (Saturday 21‚ 2016) including DJ Sbu‚ a renowned South African businessman‚ philanthropist and music producer.
“We are really humbled and we hope that he (DJ Sbu) is going to inspire young Zimbabweans to overcome their problems and be successful in their businesses. We also had the likes of Ruvheneko Parirenyatwa and Chief Kotie who are both renowned radio personalities‚” Chiwanza said.