Roselyne Sachiti Features, Health and Society Editor
Frank Moyo (31) is a carpenter at Glen View Industrial Complex in Harare. In his small space, he makes furniture that includes chairs, stools, sofas, beds, headboards and dressing tables among other things.
He employs four young carpenters aged 18, 20, 21 and 28.
Each month he gets orders from as far as Masvingo. Some of his clients are sourced through an active WhatsApp group in which he posts pictures of what he makes.
“I trained all the four people I work with. Most of them were unemployed before they joined my team. Their earnings vary, but I am happy that they can now take care of themselves and their families,” he said
He started his small business using a loan obtained from a micro-credit financial institution.
“I have repaid my loan and now making a profit. If youths get opportunities, we can grow our businesses and leap out of poverty. We can also employ other youths,” he said.
Most of his clients are in urban areas and business has been good over the past six years. He says his business has created a chain value as other young businesses
In Seke rural, Mrs Blessing Mutyoza (33) grows green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, onions and potatoes for resale in Chitungwiza.
Her family of five has been surviving on this for the past 12 years. She now wants to grow her business and start a poultry project, but says she does not know how to go about it.
“I sell vegetables in Chitungwiza twice a week. I use the money I get to pay fees for my children, buy clothes and food.
“I want to move into poultry and not sure if I qualify for a loan,” she said.
In Harare’s central business district (CBD), Ms Tariro Samukange (33), a mother of two owns a tailoring business and employs three people.
She makes curtains and bed covers and also says business has been good.
She has also been training upcoming tailors and hopes her business will grow.
“I started sewing in college. After graduating, I started the business with money from a savings group with my friends. We were five and a person would receive up to US$1 000 when their turn came.
“Because of discipline, I grew my business which I started from home. I am now renting a room in the CBD and hope to own a factory one day. My children are all in school and I can earn a decent living,” she said.
She is one of the many Zimbabwean youths who have created employment for their peers, eradicating extreme poverty.
Such young entrepreneurs have also proved that youths can contribute to the country’s economic growth if given opportunities.
Africa is home to the fastest-growing and most youthful population in the world.
According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), over 40 percent are under the age of 15 and 20 percent are between the ages of 15 and 24.
Over 65 percent of Zimbabwe’s population is youth and this makes them a group of concern taking the country’s future into consideration.
With this change in demographics comes more working-age individuals and thus the potential to advance economic growth and sustainable development, known as the demographic dividend.
Demographic dividend refers to the growth in an economy that is the resultant effect of a change in the age structure of a country’s population. The change in age structure is typically brought on by a decline in fertility and mortality rates.
As fertility declines, the proportion of the population that is of working age increase relative to the proportion of the population that is very old and very young.
If this period coincides with a broad-based and significant investment in human capital concentrated from youth to adulthood, along with opportunities in the labour market, the result is a boost in economic growth and prosperity in the population. This allows the country to effectively invest in their health, education and skills enhancement for economic empowerment through public action and private sector involvement.
In Zimbabwe, Government has been doing a lot to harness the youth demographic dividend.
Through the Youth Empower Bank, youths have been receiving loans to start projects. The bank, which was launched by Government last year to support various youth initiatives has to date reached out to more than 6 000 youths with potential to set up viable businesses.
The Empower Bank has disbursed loans worth $1 million out of the $4,1 million that has been set aside for financing young businesses across the country.
Loans that were approved for the agricultural sector and its value chain were the significant part of the bank’s loan book with more than $4,1 million under consideration for various individual clients, groups and associations, with most of them under contract farming for both crop and animal husbandry.
Zimbabwe also has a National Youth Policy, which is a critical planning tool guiding the country’s approach to youth development. The policy document contains inherent commitments by Government, young Zimbabweans and society at large on interventions and services that should be rolled out to ensure youths no longer face the crippling challenges besetting them today.
Zanu-PF secretary for Youth Affairs Cde Pupurai Togarepi last week implored youths to focus on rebuilding the economy through entrepreneurship.
“Zanu-PF’s main agenda is to invest in youths as they are the leaders of tomorrow. You should be champions in various entrepreneurship skills so that our economy will improve in accordance with our President’s vision of becoming an upper middle income economy by 2030,” said Cde Togarepi during a youth inter-district outreach in Mashonaland Central.
“You (youths) are the ones responsible for rebuilding the economy. My visit to China was very crucial because very soon in July, there is going to be a team of experts in entrepreneurship who will teach our youths on self-sufficiency and become skilled in various areas; be it sewing, baking and many more ideas.”
He said President Mnangagwa has set up centres where youths were going to be equipped with various skills and given machinery in line with trades of their choice.
This is welcome given that the demographic dividend remains central to realising Africa’s aspiration for economic transformation.
In December last year, the Government of Zimbabwe with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) launched findings of the Demographic Dividend.
Speaking at the launch, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Professor Mthuli Ncube said: “More often than not, when we speak on issues of economic growth, we pay less attention to a critical cog in the equation, that is, the human capital aspect.
“To keep this perspective under focus, in 2013 the African Union adopted the Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development in Africa beyond 2014 under the theme “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend: The Future We Want.”
According to the African Union’s Roadmap on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend Through Investments in Youths, there is need to develop and implement strategies aiming at reducing the proportion of 2013 youth unemployment by at least a quarter by 2024 (in accordance with Agenda 2063 First 10 Year Implementation Plan).
It also seeks to improve access to credit facilities for youths and establish and operationalise national and regional youth funds to increase young people’s access to business capital.
The roadmap also encourages engagement with private sector partners to expand internships, apprenticeships and on-the-job training opportunities for women and youths.
It also seeks to develop proper policies, incentive measures and create conductive environment for corporate social responsibilities with the aim of supporting youth entrepreneurship.
According to the AU Roadmap, engaging African philanthropists, chiefs executive officers (CEOs) and private sector to develop and support transformative youth development initiatives towards building entrepreneurial skills and capacities of African youths is vital.
The AU Roadmap also calls on enhancing access of young people to government procurement and financial services, including special considerations for youth-led businesses and measures to reduce the challenge of starting and/or doing business within and across African countries.
“Invest in sectors with high job-multiplier effects, including information and communications technology (ICT), manufacturing, agriculture and agro industries in order to generate employment and spur inclusive growth,” the AU Roadmap points out.
It also calls for the creation of youth development funds at national, sub-regional (RECs) and continental level (AfDB) to support youth entrepreneurship advancement within all sectors.
With political support and that of other sectors, youths can become champions in various entrepreneurship skills and improve Zimbabwe’s economy.