WASHINGTON DC —
Some college and university graduates have over the years formed their own companies upon completing their studies, creating much-needed jobs in the process.
These entrepreneurs are needed now more than ever in Zimbabwe’s unpredictable macro-economic environment, where the unofficial unemployment rate is believed to be over 80 percent.
Although there are no official figures showing the precise number of companies formed by these graduates, indications are that there is a remarkable number of firms set up by graduates in the country.
Thirty-four year old Douglas Nyathi is a proud owner of a piece of land and 85 herd of cattle, which include two pedigree bulls worth $8,000. He owns part of Woodlands Farm in Matabeleland South Province.
Nyathi dreamt of owning his own business when he studied sociology at the University of Zimbabwe in 2004 and later graduate studies at various universities.
“My interest has remained in cattle rearing and also cattle fattening. That’s what I have been doing in the last 4 to 5 years,” he says.
Nyathi, who was allocated land under Zimbabwe’s land reform program and is also a lecturer at Lupane State University, believes that one has to show a lot of interest in venturing into a business while still at college.
“It is about passion, having an interest in venturing into something. I had been having much passion in cattle rearing before completing my college studies. I think this is what propelled me to this level.”
He is quick to say such businesses need a lot of starting capital. “This business like any other entity needs a lot of capital. You need cattle kraals and proper handling facilities … and you are looking at between $10,000 and $15,000 before buying animals.”
Nyathi saved his own money over the years to venture into the cattle industry. Most college and university graduates cite lack of capital as a major stumbling block in setting up companies. They say they are well prepared theoretically for life outside college.
Among those currently struggling to form their own companies is Bhekimpilo Ndlovu, who graduated last year from the National University of Science and Technology armed with an Actuarial Science Degree.
“I want to venture into waste management and the initial seed capital I will require will be above $500,000 considering the machinery required, the land and clearing it. It requires a lot of initial investment.”
He is looking at recycling non-biodegradable material but his challenge is also in engaging experienced engineers and related manpower.
“Considering the scope of the vision that I have for the company, it will require me to seek help from the engineering sector and the financial sector and this is a very difficult task. If you have no initial capital, it will be difficult to dig into your pocket. If you do not have capital injection from elsewhere it’s a non-starter.”
F1 AND F2 EDUCATION
While some observers and critics acknowledge that the current harsh economic environment in Zimbabwe does not permit graduates to launch their own companies, others believe that the country has to restructure its education system to impart them with requisite skills of starting businesses.
Former deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education and Sport, Isaac Mpofu, says some of these challenges could have been avoided if government heeded suggestions to maintain the F1 and F2 education models soon after independence in 1980.
“There was a lot of merit in the F2 system and at the time of independence some of us tried to suggest that we should adopt that system and make any necessary changes … and we were shot down as having been colonized.”
F1 schooling mainly focused on pursuing academic studies while the F2 system was designed to equip students with life skills. Mpofu, who headed Mzinyathini Secondary School in Matabeleland South, which was one of the F2 schools, says the government should re-introduce the two-tier education system for the benefit of school and college going students.
“The normal school system is too theoretical whereas the F2 system had a lot of practical subjects in it. My students were all employed. Any student who went through our school got employment and so there is that big difference.”
The government last year created a Ministry of State for Liaising in Psychomotor Activities, headed by former Masvingo governor Josiah Hungwe. The ministry is understood to be initiating the re-introduction of the F2 system following recommendations by the 1999 Nziramasanga Commission on Education and Training.
Some notable Zimbabwean leaders who were once involved in the F2 system, include the late vice presidents Joshua Nkomo, Simon Muzenda and Joseph Msika, among several others.
It still remains to be seen whether the move to re-introduce F2 schooling will revamp the education sector and open a lot of opportunities for college and university graduates.