From the rural, semi-arid area of Lupane the tour bus headed to the bustling city of Kings and Queens-Bulawayo for its final stop on the tour. The people of Bulawayo are well-known for their pride and astuteness which is why we were intrigued by the potential offering. The 2-day event was scheduled to take place at City Hall and the Bulawayo Exhibition Park between the 8th and 9th of August 2019.   

The first day commenced with participants filing in and registering their attendance. The atmosphere was charged and you could not mistake the youthfulness of the vibrant individuals filling the Hall.  The scenery was enhanced by the colorful exhibitions by different businesses.  One company printing 3-D models was also exhibiting and attracted the attention of participants. It was evident that the tour was the place to be, with the activity attracting passerbys to inquire about Youth Connekt Zimbabwe.

The Ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation (MoYSAR) opened the event by welcoming everyone in attendance. UNDP gave a brief background of Youth Connekt and what the tour was about. This received a round of applause from the crowd as participants expressed their gratitude over the opportunity to win USD 5000 as start-up capital. Participants were given a crash course on Entrepreneurship 101 which included developing good business models and the benefits of digital productivity. During this presentation everyone was focused and occasionally jotted down notes for future reference. 

After all that learning, participants needed a breather and we broke for lunch, during which participants were mixing and mingling, along with the facilitators. During the break we spoke to Brighton Mlambo a vibrant youth whose idea is on community plumbing services and Kyla Manzungu who created an African Print Lingerie line.

After lunch, a noteworthy session on record keeping and financial management was facilitated by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development (MWACSMED). From the participant’s reaction, this really hit home. These presentations were meant to empower the youth whether they won or not with relevant business knowledge and skills. It was finally time for the elevator pitches and each and every participant got up to do final preparations. We were in awe of the detail and quality of the ideas that these competitors managed to articulate in under a minute and immediately knew that the judges’ job got more difficult with each participant that took the stage.  

Kempton Halahala from Bergwerk Consortium presented an idea on a central processing center that rates job applicants. His passion and enthusiasm spoke to the audience, and from the cheers within the room, he had brought with him loyal supporters. After much deliberation the judges finally made the choice of who was going to go on to the provincial pitching competitions the following day. The day came to an end with promises of an even brighter day the next day.

 

Day 2 was committed to one-on-one coaching and mentoring sessions with finalists. These sessions were meant to empower the youth to play a meaningful role in the development of their businesses and economy. Exhibitions from companies and organizations were still on show and attendees managed to get information on the various services they were offering. A professional, local Michael Jackson impersonator gave a stunning performance to entertain us and refresh participants. He was an instant hit. 

Five of the finalists gave their pitches after which we took a well-deserved break. During the break participants and those in attendance networked and the park was full of infectious youthful exuberance.  After the break the remaining five finalists presented their pitches. The talent and innovation displayed was enough to give Elon Musk a run for his money. This was going to be another tough call for the judges who were now faced with the almost impossible tasks of choosing one winner among such competitive talent. 

Nkosan Masuku’s innovative virtual tourism experience earned him the first runner up spot. He was ecstatic for his achievement as he had managed to out shine hundreds of others. The winner for the bustling city was Gugulethu Siso, founder of Thumeza, a logistics delivery platform. She was one of the only three female entrepreneurs to win a Start-up Tour Bus provincial pitch competition. She had already bootstrapped to a point of making revenue, which isn’t common in tech-based startups in Zimbabwe. Congratulations were the order of the day and Gugulethu elegantly took it all in stride. 

The tour was complete and we headed back to the capital city full of pride & anticipation of what was to come. Zimbabwean youth had given us hope beyond measure. The future looked bright.