From Manicaland, we headed down to the buzzing town of Marondera known for its rich soils and winery under Mashonaland East province. The districts which were to participate were Chikomba, Goromonzi, Marondera, Mudzi, Murehwa, Mutoko, Seke, Uzumba-Muramba-Pfungwe and Hwedza.  

At the Hope Fay Hotel and Conference Center is where we discovered that the residents in Mashonaland East were prompt as they were punctual for the event and registered as scheduled. The hall was buzzing with excitement as people poured in for the event. To kick start the program the Youth Connekt project manager gave the opening remarks, welcoming participants and the government officials. The team went on to educate and explain to people what really was going on and what Youth Connekt was really about. To avoid future misunderstandings and disputes the rules and guidelines were also made clear.

Indeed, it was proven that the youth in Zimbabwe are the hub of innovation as the competition was fierce. It was the clash of the titans as many participants brought forward their pitches for the judges. They varied from large scale to small scale projects. From labour intensive to capital intensive. Among the numerous exhibitions, there was a funeral parlour exhibiting coffins! Very practical. It was up to the judging panel to select those who would proceed to the finals as most pitches were equally impressive. After debating and pondering the judges finally made their list of finalists. 

Creativity was not presented in the business field only. Our very own crew member, Lucky who then became our resident performer stunned us with his talent as he created a song for Youth Connekt under the Zimdancehall genre. After having experienced tension as a result of the competition this was a great way to unwind and recollect. 

Aside from the competition, this program gave other local businesses a chance to market their products as there were exhibition tables. This marketing strategy was free of charge for these businesses.  Day 2 was just as frenetic as Day 1 as the competition intensified. The Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Kirsty Coventry graced us with her presence accompanied by her husband and their beautiful baby girl, Ella. Honourable Kristy Coventry went on to address the crowd and gave a few words of motivation and praise to the youth who had taken the time to participate and to call more to participate. The chosen eleven finalists had one on one mentoring, business coaching, and pitch finalization, all led by Impact Hub Harare. They had to be fully equipped to cover the important bases before facing the judges for the 8 minutes, three for the pitch and another five for questions and answer session. All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl, and we intended to have only bright and excited faces. Lucky performed for the audience once again, relieving the tension build-up in the hall. Competitions are often nerve-wracking for everyone involved, including the audience as well.

The exhibited ideas varied from farming equipment, instant food, energy to mobile applications. The finalists impressed us yet again with their innovative ideas. After an intense competition once again the panel of judges came up with the top 3 which were as follows: the second runner-up was McDonald Chirara who had a mobile biogas digester that produces electricity with a recharge portal for small gadgets. The first runner up was Anthony Jekanyika, who created Repellex, a solar-powered mosquito repellent suitable for industrial use. The winner who would then proceed to the final which was to take place in Harare was Blessing Phiri who pitched a Whatsapp bot that enhances the learning experience making textbooks available via WhatsApp. Honourable Kirsty Coventry took part in the prize-giving ceremony, handing the winners their envelopes. The event closed on a high note with cheers and satisfaction.

The Startup Tour Bus program would not have been successful without the constant support and contributions made by the Youth Connekt Zimbabwe project lead, the United Nations Development Program in Zimbabwe ( UNDP Zim) and Impact Hub Harare, the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation, Micah Foundation, Elevate, Steward-Millenial Bank and Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development. Teamwork truly does make the dream work.

To relive the bus moments in Mash east, click here to view the album.