By Daniel Phiri
AS the old adage goes, “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”
For one Rumbidzai Manzonzo of Sheen Cosmetics and Services based in Mutare, the Zimbabwe: Works project (Z:W) a USAID, DFID and SIDA funded project came at the right time and made her realize her dreams of owning a cosmetics business.
The project is a five-year US$12.5million initiative funded by the USAID in partnership DFID and SIDA to strengthen NGOs and private sector organisations to build skills and improve the employment and self-employment status of young Zimbabweans especially women to contribute towards and benefit from economic growth in Zimbabwe.
In an interview on the sidelines of the project’s celebration of achievement, Manzonzo who has benefited from the project said she is now able to fend for herself.
“After the training I got from the Zimbabwe: Works project, I ventured into weaves and synthetics business with a loan of US$300 and I managed to repay it.
“I then took another US$300 loan to diversify into the stationery business; during the training we were encouraged that we should diversify our business ventures.
“After repaying the two loans, I then took other two loans worth US$400 each to boost my cosmetics business and the entire business and it has worked marvelously for me,” she said.
Manzonzo said her business has been doing very well due to the business management skills and training she got from the project.
Asked how she has managed to service all her loans, at a time when most people are defaulting, Manzonzo attributed it to training and also the success of her business.
“When you do business and are able to get about US$40 a day, what makes one not want to repay the loans, my goods are bough on a daily basis so I will always have money at the end of the month to service the loans.
“Plus we were taught during the training that we should at least keep proper books for accounts for our businesses and to separate business accounts from personal accounts, that way you are able to manage your finances professionally.
“The other thing is that because of the network of the project, which include micro credit associations we have been accessing loans at 4% interest rates and that is very affordable, so I would like to thank the development partners of the project,” she said.
The project which was incepted in June 2012 is coming to an end this September and has seen almost 29 000 young people benefitting from training services and products and more than half of them are women.
Women have found it hard to access finances for their projects owing to their societal roles and lack of collateral needed in getting funds from banks.
Under the project about 5000 loans worth US$750 000 were disbursed to grow youth owned businesses and participants generated about US$31 million in income and created 6 000 jobs for their fellow youth.
Ordinarily youths have not been able to access loans from financing institutions as they are regarded as a high risk borrowers and lack required collateral.
Z: W has collaborated with 27 local NGOs and private sector partners in 12 districts to equip young people, most of whom are young women with essential technical, vocational, financial, entrepreneurship, work readiness and life skills training.
Speaking at the same occasion, USAID acting mission director Julie Nenon urged beneficiaries to make the most out of the training and networks they have been exposed to.
“There is no doubt that the Z: W project’s results are impressive. And today we applaud them for their great accomplishments that will be celebrated for years to come.
“To all the young people in this room, I would like to remind you that each and every one of you can make a difference in building a stronger economy, stronger communities and a stronger nation; one business, one sale and one employee at a time.
“There is a famous saying, ‘if opportunity does not knock, build a door’. To all vocational and technical training graduates, the project has given you the knowledge, skills and networks and now it is up to you to build your businesses or careers and open any door you want to succeed,” she said.