BY NOMAQHAWE NDLOVU
We were taught to go to school and get good grades that will ensure you secure remunerative employment that will not only feed your family but also awaken your dreams.
In modern day Zimbabwe though most people are just making do. The concept of living your dreams is a luxury few can afford or bother thinking about.
It is therefore not hard to understand why Zimbabwe’s diaspora remittances are thought to be somewhere around $1 billion annually from official channels.
As well-meaning as relatives and friends in foreign countries are it is imprudent to rely solely on their good will, especially with the frequent foreign currency shortages and miscellaneous charges banks are so fond of.
Thembelihle Madondo, a teacher by profession, currently makes a living selling Tupperware and Forever Living products. Although many are sceptical about network marketing, she says all you need is about two to three months of focus and hard work to significantly impact your current economic situation.
“I cannot weep and cry and wait for the economy. It’s up to me,” says Thembelihle.
After noting these products are no longer priorities, she promptly diversified to include basic necessities which she advertises and sells via WhatsApp.
“Selling basic commodities piece by piece works better, in a day you will always make at least 5 or 10 RTGs as people find it more manageable to purchase one or two items rather than a whole shopping list.”
People are becoming increasingly aware that money can be made doing anything and with the persistent price hikes people are forced to be innovative to afford the most basic human rights.
Tee Smith* has a BSc. (Hons) in Geography & BSc. in Environmental Science and Geography from Rhodes University. She started offering various services on a freelance basis after a long spell being unemployed.
“I did errands for a friend’s sister once, upon needing more help she requested to pay and suggested I try charging people.”
She also tutors O’ Level Geography, Maths and Science subjects. She is also a virtual assistant for companies that outsource data capturing tasks.
Although she keeps busy, the fiscal gains are not satisfactory. She makes just enough to get by and works more to distract herself and alleviate the stress of unemployment.
This stress is typical as Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education reports that roughly 30,000 students graduate annually from the country’s institutions of higher learning.
To bridge this gap, many are exploring hobbies they always loved but wouldn’t have thought of as income generators under normal circumstances.
Ralph Madison* of Proactive gym for example, started personal training after realising his hobby training and working out could be used to help people achieve their goals.
“Working with people as they watch their bodies change, and teaching them to harness that power and use it to control their bodies is gratifying.”
His clients are mostly corporates and interestingly middle-aged women!
Millennials are labelled entitled or lazy but in Bulawayo many families are being kept afloat by a millennial either here or in the diaspora. They are willing to explore all avenues as they are cognisant of the fact that certain opportunities are merely a means to an end. Nowhere is this more evident than with two of the most popular hustles locally – Forex Trading and Au Pairing.
The main focus of au pairs is the children in the family. Although a significant duty is teaching them English, everything from preparing them for school to helping with homework and pickups and drop-offs falls under an au pairs duties.
In Zimbabwe we still subscribe to many British classist ideals, with au pairing being synonymous with domestic work it is not unusual to find people that wouldn’t be comfortable persuing it.
Unfortunately, with the economy as it is, this has become the only way some people can facilitate their personal and professional dreams.
Nhlanhla Mpofu decided to move to Germany as an au pair after completing her first degree in South Africa.
“Besides the cultural exchange, my plan was to continue with my studies afterwards. I am very grateful that it all worked out.”
Obtaining a study visa in Germany is not accessible for everyone. The system requires international students to prove they can support themselves financially during their studies. They either fill a blocked account with roughly 8700 Euros or get a sponsor to co-sign them. In Germany ironically all public universities are free, the money required is for living expenses.
“A friend and I decided to open an NGO after noting the information deficit prevalent among many au pairs. We also realised some were in uncomfortable situations regarding their host families. To this end, we stared The Next Step as a platform that would provide advice, viable post au pair solutions as well as answer all questions a young immigrant might have in Germany,” says Nhlanhla.
On the other hand some people would rather venture closer to home to secure their best life.
Nigel Chikwakwanyi, was living in Harare when he came across a Facebook advert on Forex Trading in Bulawayo. After doing some research he packed and moved.
It might seem inconceivable but such is the high risk, high reward thinking the average Zimbabwe has been forced to resort to in order to survive.
His aptitude and enthusiasm saw him firmly entrench himself in the trading scene to the extent that he is now the chief administrator of the Forex Trading Association of Zimbabwe. (FOTRAZ).
In this capacity he has also mentored other traders through the Forex Treading School.
They offer two-day introductory courses covering the basics of the market, technical analysis and mentoring thereafter throughout the ‘traders’ career.
Even with all that being said, “success depends on how fast you learn and how closely you follow the rules”. He adds further, “even if not successful in a monetary way you still gain an appreciation for the financial markets that can prove advantageous in other business dealings”.
An interesting observation he made is that women make exceptional traders as they are conservative and are comfortable settling for smaller profits as opposed to trying to strike it big with a huge sum!
Not everyone is most enterprising as an individual, some people prefer a more collaborative approach to augment their finances.
Programs like Homelink, Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust and Self Help Development Foundation are on hand to offer financial assistance for business initiatives or training that can later lead to employment.
One such opportunity is mushroom farming.
Irene Sibanda has been farming since 2015. She has been able to sell her produce to local retailers. Sponsored by the Future of Hope Foundation, she was able to start her mushroom business from 2Kgs of mushrooms at 14RTGS.
“I am able to sell my mushrooms and educate my children with the proceeds”.
Chido Govera, the founder of the Future of Hope Foundation was herself an orphan and a chance to learn mushroom farming changed her life. It was this experience that inspired her to use mushroom farming as a conduit for community empowerment.
Also empowering women is blogger Thembi Terry, she has managed to establish herself as a thought leader in her field and has inspired young women to take up blogging and to start telling their own stories.
Objectively speaking Zimbabwe as it is doesn’t seem like a conducive place to pursue blogging as a career.
One cannot imagine corporates being generous with anyone in these penurious times.
According to Thembi blogging is extremely profitable, the trick is to leverage your blog into other areas especially related products or consultancy.
“Put in the work, build the brand and the audience and then branch into other things.”
It is also important to stay on top of your craft by constantly reading other bloggers’ work and seeing how they keep their audience engaged.
“I am doing online courses on content creation and really perfecting my craft. I am competing on a global scale and I need to keep up with trends and improve the quality of my work.”
Taking all this into consideration what can we learn? Think out of the box, use what you are naturally good at and be brave! And then maybe this time next year you’ll be a little closer to your ideal life.
*Not real names