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Mandela Washington Fellowship: University Educated and Unemployed; Samuel Wadzai's Story

Samuel Wadzai
Samuel Wadzai

Zimbabwe’s worsening economic collapse is forcing thousands of college and university graduates into street hawking, a profession many are wont to loathe.

Samuel Wadzai is a typical example; he holds a Master’s degree in Human Resource Development from the Great Zimbabwe University.

And with that portfolio, he could be a Human Resource Manager, or an Organizational Development Consultant or any of the many occupational opportunities that come with the qualification.

Yet, Wadzai is into vending. It wasn’t really his dream job, but due to limited, almost non-existent job opportunities, he had to innovate.

He runs a small shop pushing cellphone accessories and jewelry in Harare. Though disenchanted, he is proud he can still fend for his family.

“We are into vending because there are no jobs,” Wadzai says. “If you look at the statistics, unemployment in Zimbabwe is between 90 and 95 percent; so it’s a dire situation.”

“We are therefore, into vending because we have no option, we have to look after our families, our mothers and fathers who sent us to school. So this is really a refuge occupation.”

Wadzai is one of the 60 promising young Zimbabweans going to the United States mid-June for the revered Mandela Washington Fellowship to study entrepreneurship and leadership.

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He leads a group of informal traders called the Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET), which boasts of over 43,000 members, of which 4,000 have a University degree.

“We’ve a platform that we launched recently called the Graduate Street vendors Platform, which is a grouping of young graduates, holders of degrees.

“…we also want it to provide training for street vendors so they’re able to do their businesses profitably and become macro entrepreneurs.”

Wadzai is excited about the Mandela Washington Fellowship opportunity, and hopes it will open avenues for him to nurture his tiny hawking business into a big entrepreneurial enterprise.

“It’s one of the best moments in my life,” he says. “I know this will go a long way in terms of improving my capacity as a leader. This is a prestigious fellowship that everyone aspires for.”

Wadzai, who has more than 7 years of experience in Human Capital Development, Human rights, Community mobilization and institution building, will study civic leadership at the University of California, Berkeley.