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Zimbabwe: The rewards of going green

The ILO’s Green enterPrize helps support green and growth-oriented small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Zimbabwe. Several winners say the competition has been a big help for their companies.

Feature | 29 July 2019
HARARE (ILO News) – Piwai Chikasha and Takudzwa Chipadza, both from Zimbabwe, met at an aeronautical engineering college in Ukraine. They soon became friends and business partners.

“We always had this idea of transferring all the knowledge we gained in Europe back to Zimbabwe,” said Chikasha.

Piwai Chikasha and Takudzwa Chipadza, Alley Capital Group - First prize, Best young entrepreneurs
They eventually set up Alley Capital Group, a company that uses drones to provide crop-spraying services for farmers.

Their battery-powered drones are highly efficient and eliminate the need for diesel fuel. The technology improves the quality of the crops, decreases environmental harm and allows farmers to work more efficiently.

“In Zimbabwe, going green is not really something we talk about,” Chikasha said. “But we can contribute, no matter how small.”

The young men’s project won the best young entrepreneurs’ category in the ILO’s Green enterPRIZE competition, receiving US$5,000 and 12 months of business development services for their company.

The Green enterPRIZE business competition was created by the ILO and implemented with the help of local business development service providers, with the aim of helping Zimbabwean entrepreneurs strengthen their green and growth-oriented businesses. Of the 117 people who entered, 90 made the shortlist and were invited to attend small group training sessions, where contestants discussed and developed their business plans.

As well as being delighted to win the prize, Chikasha and Chipadza say that these networking opportunities and training sessions were also very helpful.

“It’s opened up avenues for business collaborations and synergies,” Chipadza said. “Something greener is going to come out of those interactions.”

The prize for the best green business went to Elizabeth Nyamunda, who started her company with a very simple idea; cloth diapers save both money and the environment.

Elizabeth Nyamunda, Tamba Washables - First prize, Best green business
When she had her first child, she would buy cloth diapers, but eventually decided to make them herself, to save money. Eventually, she began selling her colourful creations to local mothers, at markets in Harare and through Facebook.

“When you use cloth diapers, not only are you saving the environment by reducing waste in our landfills and the number of trees cut down,” Nyamunda said. “You are also saving financially.”

Nyamunda now has a small team and hopes to open a bricks-and-mortar store soon. She is also looking forward to tapping into the ILO’s network to get help with creating a promotional strategy, selling through local clinics, and expanding to other cities.

Ethel Mupambwa is another entrepreneur who benefited from ILO support, in her case with team development. In 2014, Mupambwa and her business partner founded Moneymart, a microfinance institution. Since then her business has expanded from three employees to more than 30, mostly young women who started working straight after graduation.

This record won her third prize in the best growth-oriented business category.

Ethel Mupambwa, Moneymart - Third prize, Best growth-oriented business
Mupambwa guiding belief is the power of sustainable financial solutions to positively transform people’s lives. So, when it started, Moneymart focused on providing small loans – around US$50 – to female entrepreneurs with little to no credit history.

In 2018 they decided to expand, and Moneymart started offering affordable loans to fund Sustainable, Modern, Affordable, Reliable, and Technologically-driven (SMART) energy solutions – e.g. solar power – in rural areas. In particular the team focused on communities experiencing financial exclusion, especially those without any electricity at all.

But the team faced issues of accessibility caused by poor infrastructure, and financial limitations. Then, they identified the Green enterPRIZE competition as a potential source of support.

“We thought, we are the right candidates,” said. Mupambwa. “This competition aligns with our vision.”

In all, the awards recognized 28 small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) for their sustainable ideas and green practices.

The Green EnterPRIZE project aims to create green jobs for young women and men, and increase the number of SMEs adopting sustainable production processes and tapping into the potential of a greener economy. It is being implemented by the ILO in collaboration with the Government of Zimbabwe, the Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, with support from the Government of Sweden.