There has been a lot of interesting activities and developments in the business arena locally this 2019. Sadly, it has been a taste of both worlds for many i.e. business success and business failure. We cannot ignore the fact that many went out of business or down-scaled their operations. Those who were enterprising enough actually scaled their businesses into lofty empires. Some also leveraged on the presence of countless problems to step in with monetizable solutions that have since become great businesses. Overall, it suffices to say that business-wise it has been an eventful year. Herein I will just jog your memory on some of the business highlights from this year that we are almost closing the curtain on.

Businesses Adopted Social Media Marketing More

The use of social media marketing steadily increased this year. Particularly the use of influencer marketing – it was a regular feature this year. Interestingly, there seemed to be more inclination towards comedy personalities in businesses choosing social media influencers. However, public personalities from artistes to sportspersons, amongst many were used. There was also an interesting trend that saw businesses leveraging on iconic social developments in the country. Earlier in the year, we saw trends such as the Ndinyengeiwo girl and the Chicken Inn couple amongst others. Businesses realized the power of riding on social trends to market their goods or services. Even in general, people advertised their brands more on social media.

Econet, Ecocash Customer Service Disaster

With respect to customer service, 2019 has been the worst year for these two to date (I would say). All year long Econet has had so many complaints levelled against them by customers. The major highlight was the Ecocash service challenges that occurred after their scheduled upgrade. Before I look at that do not forget that earlier towards the end of July there was a service outage for Econet services for numerous hours. Last month saw the beginning of arguably the biggest Ecocash customer service disaster of all time. The backlog of complaints that they are still faced with right now is colossal. So intense has it been to the extent that some people crossing to One Money. This year has not been rosy for these business entities – customer service has been riddled with challenges. It is even ironic that Econet scooped a Super Brand Award at the Super Brands Awards that were held recently.

Businesses Anchored On Digital Innovations Were On The Rise

There was a steady emergence or growth of businesses leveraging on digital innovations. One notable example is Fresh In Box which started off late last year but grew so much this 2019. Leveraging on e-commerce by the use of a website and social media platforms they scaled into a big business. We also saw the emergence of Nyama Farma, an online butchery shop doing deliveries. There was also the emergence of Funded, an online crowdfunding platform that still under development. Chikafu also came onboard, which is a web application or platform that connects food-related producers to buyers. These are just some of them but we can safely say the trend of businesses anchored on digital innovations grew in 2019. In the same vein, it is also valid to say that the local startups culture grew this year.

More Young People Became (And Are Becoming) Entrepreneurs

The number of young people entering the entrepreneurship space significantly increased in 2019. Recently the National Young Champion Farmers Awards were held at Botanic Gardens in Harare. The fact that an exclusive award ceremony for young farmers was put together shows you that young people are getting more involved in entrepreneurship. The Youth Entrepreneurship Programme (YEP) 2019 awards to be officially held early next year also show the growing interest amongst young people to become entrepreneurs. Even the 2020 Budget Statement highlighted that the government would now avail funds for youth startups. That is obviously borne out of the realization that youths matter and are getting more interested in entrepreneurship.

Young People Made Impact In Business Tech Innovation Initiatives

There were several initiatives done this year aimed at equipping young people with innovative business skills to be competent in this fourth industrial revolution (4IR). One of the noteworthy initiatives this year was The Youth Connekt Africa. It started off with The Youth Connekt Zimbabwe Startup Tour Bus. It later culminated into Tafara Makaza scooping the first runner up position for the Innovation and Digital Inclusion Award during The Youth Connekt Africa Summit. He took part by pitching his startup called ZimTaxi. 7 young Zimbabweans this year made it to The Forbes Africa 30 under 30 list. 6 of those 7 are young people running successful businesses. These are some of the notable highlights regarding young people making an impact through tech innovations particularly in business.

Businesses Started Setting Sights On Renewable Energy

With the incessant power challenges still being experienced locally, businesses started turning to renewable energy as a panacea. Econet turned to solar to help power their main switching facilities. Recently we saw Schweppes commissioning their 1 MW US$2 million solar plant. This trend has been on-going this year on varying scales. Going into 2020 we can expect to see more and more businesses turning to renewable energy especially solar.

These are some of the highlights that occurred in the business space locally this year. It goes without saying that operating businesses this year was a tall order for many. The incessant power cuts, foreign currency shortages and dwindling incomes of most consumers were some of the reasons that led to that. However, as much as many people struggled and some went out of business altogether more and more people started businesses. Particularly in agriculture (horticulture and livestock production) – many people entered this space in 2019. It is quite promising, as can be seen from what I discussed earlier, that young people are increasingly becoming centre stage in the digital economy – that is a step in the right direction.