A DELEGATION of Cabinet Ministers will engage young entrepreneurs in Bulawayo this week at the first National Young Entrepreneur Expo to be held in the city between Thursday and Saturday.
Industry and Trade Minister Dr. Sekai Nzenza is expected to headline the event while several ministers are expected to attend, said Acting Director for Business, Ms. Nomsa Mpofu-Moyo.
These included; Minister for Finance and Economic Development, Professor Mthuli Ncube, Minister for Youth, Sports, Arts and Leisure, Kirsty Coventry, Minister for Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality, Mangaliso Ndlovu, Minister Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises, Dr. Sithembiso Nyoni.
The Minister of Higher and Higher Education, Innovation, Science and Technology, Professor Amon Murwira, is also expected.
These will share the stage with private sector leaders and provide different policy ideas to help young entrepreneurs develop their business potential and tap into local and global business markets.
Organized by the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation, with support from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the gathering will be held under the theme: “Revitalizing and Empowering Youth Enterprises across valuable”.
Ms. Mpofu-Moyo, said preparations for the expo were at an advanced stage with young entrepreneurs from all 10 provinces of the country, private sector leaders and government officials registering.
“The theme was well thought out after realizing that youth businesses suffered greatly during the Covid-19 induced shutdowns and therefore needed to be activated by providing much needed support to young people to access economic opportunities across all value chains” , she said.
“Young people are very important for the economic development of the country because they bring solutions to economic problems thanks to their spirit of innovation.
“Most of their businesses come as a solution to a problem in their various communities.”
Ms. Mpofu-Moyo said the expo will provide young entrepreneurs with an opportunity to showcase their businesses, network with peers from other provinces and exchange ideas as well as establish business ties.
According to a concept paper, several countries in Africa have a high youth population with Zimbabwe, in particular, having a youth percentage of 67.7 percent of its total population.
Young people have enormous potential to run productive businesses and are creative and innovative in their businesses.
However, they face difficulties in accessing markets. Limited market access leads to businesses failing to break even or collapsing, calling into question the sustainability of youth-owned businesses, the paper adds.
As such, Ms. Mpofu-Moyo said that the Ministry of Youth is implementing several initiatives to support young people in their search for business opportunities, with planned exposure being one of the main strategies.
“The ministry provides much-needed entrepreneurial skills through vocational training as well as financial support in their businesses through Empower Bank.
“The ministry intends to host the National Young Entrepreneur Expo as an annual event, which will provide this important networking platform for young entrepreneurs,” she said.
Empower Bank has already set a goal to grow its loan portfolio to over $1 billion by the end of 2022 as it aims to increase support for young entrepreneurs across the country.
The financial institution was established as a micro-banking unit by the government in 2018 specifically to support different youth initiatives aimed at achieving economic empowerment and financial inclusion.
It also engages youth through financial literacy and project proposal training to present bankable business proposals to access finance.