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Mandela Washington Fellowship: A Lifetime Opportunity for Nkosana Mazibisa

Nkosana Mazibisa

A rarity, a lifetime opportunity; that is how budding entrepreneur, Nkosana Mazibisa, is characterizing his participation in the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship.

Mazibisa is among 60 young Zimbabweans picked from a pool of over 1,600 applicants to undergo eight weeks of rigorous training in civic and business leadership in the U.S starting mid-June.

He will take up business and entrepreneurship studies at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire.

“Such opportunities are very rare,” says Mazibisa, founder of Swad, a Bulawayo-based confectionery startup. “It gives one an overview as to how the world operates.”

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Despite harsh economic headwinds that have forced thousands of established companies to shut down across Zimbabwe, Swad has held its own since its formation in 2014.

So, what’s their secret?

“What makes us survive under harsh economic conditions is our marketing strategy,” Mazibisa says, assertively.

“What we do is we use a marketing strategy called the matrix where low-cost products are covering overheads for high-cost products.”

Swad products, which include biscuits, potato crisps and dried fruits - to mention but a few - target especially young people.

But these are not ordinary youths. They’re “young people who believe in opulence and quality. That is what Swad stands for,” Mazibisa tells VOA’s Studio 7.

The company, despite its infancy, has also not shied away from its corporate social responsibilities. And Mazibisa believes that has helped them gain traction in the various communities they serve.

“For example we have Lobengula High School (in Bulawayo) where we sponsor debates and interaction clubs. We’re also paying school fees for the less privileged.”

Like any startup, Mazibisa has lofty dreams. And the Mandela Washington Fellowship sure gives him the right launch pad to realize his aspirations.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship was launched by U.S President Barack Obama in 2010 under the name Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) with the aim of nurturing future African leaders.

It evolved in 2014 as Obama paid tribute to former South African leader Nelson Mandela, who passed away in 2013.