For Munyaradzi Gwatidzo, entrepreneurship was initially really about survival. With no one to take care of Gwatidzo and his siblings, they learnt to fend for themselves.
It was his wife’s encouragement that led him to start Astro Mobile. “Astro” because the plan was for the business to shine bright in Africa and beyond”.
Nigel Chanakira, a Zimbabwean investor, believed in Gwatidzo and his vision so much that he invested about one million US dollars in the business. And provided Gwatidzo with much needed coaching and mentoring.
Today, Astro is a USD 100 million star dazzling customers all across Africa with a range of mobile devices designed specifically with the African consumer in mind. The $60 Astrobox, perhaps the ‘world’s cheapest computer, turns any television into a PC and doubles as a wireless router.
Remarkably, Astro devices are designed and developed by its team of technology enthusiasts in Harare and built either in one of its factories in Zimbabwe or China. And Gwatidzo through his charitable trust has over 1,000 orphans in school.
Having recently ventured into consumer electronics with a smart LED television manufacturing plant in Zimbabwe.
Hilda Moraa is a Kenyan fintech entrepreneur. She is the founder and CEO of Pezesha, a peer-to-peer micro-lending marketplace for Africa that provides access to affordable financial services and credit scores to low-income borrowers.
She previously founded Weza Tele, which in 2015 became on the first African tech startups to be acquired by another business. In 2016, she was named one of the 30 Most Promising Young African Entrepreneurs by Forbes. Here she speaks about her entrepreneurship journey and her passion to make an impact through technology.
Rudo Mazhandu is a mother, chemist, business owner, and employer in Zimbabwe. Like most entrepreneurs, she has experienced setbacks related to funding and job security; unlike many others, she has persevered in a country that is literally running out of money. How does a young self-starter succeed in a cashless economy? The formula includes optimism, the right training, and continually learning as you go.
While informal employment dominates Zimbabwe’s economy, college-educated Rudo has been running a formally registered business full-time since 2014. “I chose to start my business because I couldn’t find employment,” Rudo says. “I started making detergents for my kitchen, for my bathroom. I started supplying the people in my vicinity. With the demand that followed, I saw the need to scale up, and with the help of IYF I was able to move to a better location where I began operating in a real businesses environment.
As for her country’s cashless economy, banks have run out of paper money and individuals hoard it or take it out of the country. In response to an increasing reliance on debit cards, Rudo says, “Knowing how people in Zimbabwe are generally quick to reject initiatives, I saw an opportunity by accepting the cashless initiative. Just before I came here [to DC], I applied to get a point of sale machine so I can do swiping. We can get a lot of sales from the government, because they can use their bank cards. Soap is one of the things they will buy. I also accept mobile money, bank transfers, cash, and government bond notes.”
“The idea came after I was running a retail outlet (hustling) selling phones and stuff and it was very hard to meet the customers, then I met a friend who run a retail business and she told me how difficult it was for her to send packages through Lusaka. We looked into this problem and found that there are 12,000 estimated businesses around Lusaka that either sell a payroll, electronics, pharmaceuticals that were going through the same struggle,” Njavwa said.
He added, “we set up Musanga Logistics in 2016 and we got overwhelming response and we quickly hit a 1,000 transactions and we said maybe we are on to something, maybe this is not a dream. That is how Musanga Logistics started.”
Musanga Logistics currently has six members and a board comprising professional people drawn from the corporate sector.
“As Musanga, we enable commerce, we enable businesses to send packages. So we have signed up third parties who can deliver packages, this could be cyclists, motor cycle rider or a van owner.
He said Musanga had a very difficult start but that now things are looking up.
“It was a crazy start. We started off with no bikes and using third parties means we need scale from our customers. A bike was going for US$ 1,500, we didn’t have that money, so we managed to negotiate a deal with a bicycle retailer and they kind of bid on us. They gave us the bike and they just said somehow you gonna have to find the money to pay us and that gave us our start,” he said.
Njavwa says Musanga’s ambition is to become a big logistics player across the region.