A few days ago, Econet Founder Strive Masiyiwa announced what is known as the Masiyiwa Rural Challenge Fund. This is a $100 million fund which will be disbursed as loans to support rural businesses over the next 5 years. The question then arises; what business can you do in rural Zimbabwe? We attempt to answer this question by suggesting business opportunities that you can exploit in Zimbabwe’s rural areas.
Access to land is better in rural areas. As such, farming is a good business to venture into, the profits are there. And you can earn foreign currency too. A record 238 million kilogrammes of tobacco was sold in 2018. This earned the country US$1 billion. Reduced yields are expected this time around due to lower rainfall but this should not be a deterrent to potential farmers. If you can get the funding, you can look into irrigation as a way to increase water supply and boost productivity. You can also consider getting into poultry or any other produce especially where potential for export is there. Horticulture is known to have foreign markets. The Masiyiwa Fund will help you with funding to ensure that your business is compliant with export standards.
In 2018, Zimbabwe earned about US$3.4 billion from mining sector exports. That the country is endowed with vast mineral resources is not in doubt. Many fail to get into mining because it is capital intensive. Most of the consumables need to be imported from abroad where they are cheaper. Machinery is also expensive. This is where the Masiyiwa Rural Challenge Fund comes in. If you are interested in mining, now is a good time to register your own claim ensuring that you operate legally. Despite the fact that Fidelity Printers and Refineries retains about 45% of miners forex proceeds, the benefits of mining need not be overemphasized. Most small scale miners are into gold and chrome mining. However, looking into the future, lithium mining may be a worthwhile investment especially for those who can partner with investors to help with costly equipment and machinery that is needed for such a venture. In the next 20 years, most vehicles will be electric cars and lithium is used to make batteries for such cars.
Many rural areas face transport challenges. Recent fuel price hikes further worsened rural transport woes. However, this is an opportunity for those interested in this sector. You can start small and increase your fleet with time. It is important to note that this is an industry where customer care is almost non existent. Many combi drivers and conductors are known to be rough and wreckless to say the least. If you decide to get into this business, this is an opportunity to do things differently, be kind and patient to everyone. Also, ensure adherence to set timetables as this will endear you with the customers and get you the market share.
It is a fact that rural areas are always lagging behind when it comes to technological developments. If you can come up with better technologies to solve rural problems, you will smile all the way to the bank. Mobile phone usage keeps increasing and you can leverage on that. All over the world, apps that assist in farming are gaining traction. You can also look into health related technology. As an example, the use of drones to deliver medication in hard to reach areas is growing. Rural Zimbabwe has poor road networks and this may be a lucrative business to get into. You can partner government and non governmental organisations that normally have health programmes in rural areas.
The opportunities are there. You just need to identify where your passion lies and where you stand to make the most. Hopefully, the Masiyiwa Rural Challenge Fund will encourage others to bring more funding into the country because this is where most start ups are experiencing problems.