Someone wrote me a message yesterday asking for business advice for setting something up that serves the rural communities in Zimbabwe. Below is our communication, in case you may find it useful (I took his name out, of course)
On 03/04/14 3:01 AM, He wrote: I am quite keen on starting a community related business. How can you assist ?
On Tuesday 04 March 2014 at 22:58, Harnet Bokrezion (PhD) wrote:
Thank you for your question. Would you be able to give some more details as it would help to come up with some ideas. Are you interested in a particular country or sector – and if you mean community related, do you mean serving the local community with your products or services? What kind of community? Town residents, farmers, etc…
On 03/04/14 1:01 PM, He wrote:
Thanks for getting back to me. I would like to do something in Zimbabwe in the rural areas serving the community
On Tuesday 04 March 2014 at 23:36, Harnet Bokrezion (PhD) wrote:
Thanks for that and I am happy to share a few ideas that come to my mind given the overall business environment in Zimbabwe and the key sectors there (additional note: agriculture being the main income sector for the rural community and a key industry in Zimbabwe).
You can approach it from two angles:
I.) You develop a product or service that is of great use to farmers and they pay you for it. In this case it needs to be a business that has great scalability as the farmers are poor and you would earn money by selling at a very low unit price for something that will be used by the big masses, so you can make a profit.
So for example (depending on your budget, expertise etc):
1) Mobile apps for farmers that help them tracking market prices for their products each day, which empowers them. You can have apps developed by freelancers.
2) In Kenya, two Europeans made a big profit by opening a chain of low-cost schools – they received the approval by government of course. Here is an article.
(additional note: similar efforts underway by entrepreneurs in other African countries)
3) One venture that would most definitely succeed is small solar equipment, I think you can count on the success. Read the story of the young man Patrick Ngowi from Tanzania who started with hardly any capital and is now a millionaire.
I have featured him in my article here:
or you can google him.
II). The other option is that the farmers produce to serve others and you facilitate this.
1) Having worked in the rural areas of Africa myself, it really helps to do some interviews with farmers and ask them for their key problems. Usually 1-2 answers will be repeated by all farmers. For example that certain produce (milk, leather, fruits go to waste). This is where you come in an create that link with between them and a company in the capital for example.
2) Agro-processing. So for example you produce potato crisps, snacks, dried fruit, peanut butter, honey etc and sell them in the capital as a local brand in supermarkets. if you do a good job with something hotels would import (ketchup, cereals, etc) you could focus on that. See what is in great demand in the capital and gets imported or is not available and you can fill a gap.
3) Zimbabwe produces cotton, and one area of demand are hygiene pads for women,missing all over Africa, be it in the rural areas or in the capital. There is an Indian inventor who created a manual machine that costs just over $1,000, the women in the village are now producing these pads for his company and sell them.
In the end it’s all about thinking where the big gaps are and to create models where you do not need a lot of finance to be put in to get you started. Some of it, can be done by simply calling farmers into cooperatives and sell the goods in bulk. No investment needed from your side you just need to create a great system and get the buyers.
Hope this helps.
Can you think of any other related business idea for Zimbabwe? Please feel free to share it in the comment section below.
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