Interview by: Stephanie Blum
Written by: Yasmin Morais
Y&Y Fellow Chido Dzinotyiwei, a 23-year-old woman from Zimbabwe, is the director and co-founder of the Zimbabwe Economic Youth Forum (ZEYF). Born in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, she later moved to South Africa with her parents. Chido graduated with honors from the University of Cape Town with a major in economics.
The story of ZEYF started when Chido and her co-founder were thinking about topics for their economics thesis paper, they wanted to write something about Zimbabwe and had a lot of issues finding data and organizations, so they decided to start an organization that would help people to access information about the country. The organization started as a non-profit, focused on providing information, but after a lot of research, they decided to go into a social business. Chido started her business with the goal to provide access to reliable and accurate data about the Zimbabwe economy. They wanted it to be easy for students, professors, and business professionals to find and trust information. After seeing a post from Y&Y on opportunitiesforafricans.com, Chido realized that venturing into social entrepreneurship was a great opportunity.
Chido believes that, with good information, people can make better decisions, and be better equipped to solve problems within their country. Although Chido loves the journey of entrepreneurship, she notes that it presents some challenges, such as accessing funding, finding a voice as a new player in a market and persisting even when people may not completely see the impact of your vision. Chido mentions that it is a challenge to manage the organization from another country, but she affirms that all the hard work is worth it when the people she seeks to serve benefit from ZEYF’s initiatives and projects.
What keeps Chido motivated to continue when things get hard is her love for Zimbabwe and her desire to see the country rise to its potential. “Sometimes you don’t get outcomes expected, but you have a vision and you keep walking towards it. The fact that you can still see where you want to go is encouraging”. Chido likes connecting with other entrepreneurs, listening to what they are doing and to keep learning about how to solve problems. Along with that, the most important lesson she learned as a social entrepreneur is to educate people to understand the importance of and need for your solution. One piece of advice Chido shared for people looking to start a social business is to focus on a social cause that they are passionate about and to be prepared to handle criticism and challenges as you build on it.
When she heard about the Y&Y Fellowship Program, she was motivated to apply. She says that, at first, she didn’t think that she would qualify, but after she understood about the social business concept, she felt encouraged. When invited for an interview, she read more about Y&Y and prepared to share what she learned from past failures. Her journey with Y&Y has been really amazing, as her mentors helped her to map out a better strategy for her social business. According to Chido, they were accessible, helpful and even developed a greater interest in her passion and her country. For her, “it [was] great to have [their] support”. Topics covered during the mentoring sessions included creating a strategy to move forward, and how to engage with other related stakeholders, such as academic think tanks, who collect important data, and other youth-led organizations.
ZEYF’s impact on the Zimbabwean community has been visible. ZEYF has engaged the youth and provided information on commerce & employment, among other industries. ZEYF currently reaches approximately 200 youth per week through its social media pages and aims to increase these numbers. The organization has managed to produce 4 research papers and is also looking to mobilize resources in order to grow its research capacity and data output. ZEYF has developed from being an NGO and, with the help of the Yunus & Youth program, it is well on its way to evolving into a Think-and-Do social business.