What an honor it was to be invited to the Junior Achievement African Company of the Year awards hosted in Harare, Zimbabwe from December 7th to the 10th 2016! The prestigious event brings together 14 different countries to compete for the the Junior Achievement Company of the Year award. All participants were between the ages of 15 and 23, and have been running different entrepreneurial ventures in their home countries. As an alum of the program, I had the privilege to be part of the judging panel and also a guest speaker.
I admired witnessing the hunger for success in the young entrepreneurs and noting how much the sector has grown. A remarkable feat of the program was that the top prize winners were young women out of the participants. Their innovative ventures include: 1) making school bags that transform into rain coats, 2) making recycled paper diaries which had a Mauritian culture blended onto the cover and 3) making nail and thread art for corporate companies. The ventures were based in Kenya, Mauritius and Swaziland, respectively.
One of my key realizations during this day is that there is great need for the continent to continue providing role models for these young people, as it will motivate them to continue doing what they do. During my speech I also highlighted to the young business owners:
“Entrepreneurship is not a substitute for being unemployed. By creating a venture young, you would have already created your own jobs and you are the only ones who can determine how far you can go in also creating jobs for other young people.”
As an adjudicator for the program I also challenged the participants to re-imagine the possibilities of entrepreneurship on the continent and start focusing on how different technologies can be used to disrupt various sectors relevant to the African continent. As an example, I shared my story about Shasha iSeminar and how we seek to be the continent’s top high school e-learning solutions company.
Another key highlight from my experience is being tasked to a two year project to establish the Zimbabwean Junior Achievement Alumni network. This is something I look forward to as I will use some of the knowledge I have gained from being a part of the Anzisha network to grow the Junior Achievement network in my home nation. My hope is that one day, we will establish a desirable ecosystem for youth entrepreneurial development in Zimbabwe.
By: Farai Munjoma, 2015 Anzisha Fellow