THE COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way of doing things and presented many negative impacts. Whilst economies have started to re-opened, the future remains uncertain. Due to the pandemic, some people lost their jobs, streams of income where eroded, projects failed and companies ran out of business. This undoubtedly increased the already rising poverty rates in Zimbabwe and the continent at large. Whom should we look towards to during such times? For me I look towards entrepreneurs; they have a special mandate to eradicate poverty in these trying times.
The World Bank estimated that extreme poverty in Zimbabwe has been rising over the past years from 29% in 2018 to 34% in 2019, that is around 5.7 million people is living in poverty. It even predicted a rise in poverty rates in the 2020. If such a population was living in poverty prior to covid-19 pandemic, how about during and post the pandemic?
Poverty possesses a great threat to the lives of those living in it. Majority of the population living in poverty face challenges related to being homeless, inadequate nutrition and food security, inadequate childcare, lack of access to health care and under-resourced schools. All these are problems that entrepreneurs can solve to make the community we are staying into a better place.
What is entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is the art of transforming the world by solving its problems. Of course, there is the monetization or the sustainability part, which can be addressed by an innovative business model.
“Education is not a way to escape poverty; it is a way of fighting it.” Julius Nyerere. The first thing we (entrepreneurs) can do to fight poverty is educating the poor communities. Let us not limit education to formal schools and universities only, it can also stretch to skills equipping and development. Referring to formal schools, entrepreneurs can establish learning centers that charge locals at breakeven and accepting fees payments in form of commodities (grain or livestock) as well. This model can also be strengthened by donations from well-wishers and humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF. How about establishing school ran projects that can also contribute to the institution’s inflows. As pupils learn about carpentry, that can produce furniture that can be bought in urban area, the same goes with agricultural related programs. At some point, parents and guidance can pay for their children’s fees through working in the school’s fields. All this, can undoubtedly sustain the educational centers established by entrepreneurs in poor community. By equipping the less priviledged with key skills, we are declaring a war against extreme poverty.
In a report done in 2017 by Amanda Lauren Quinn, about 84% of Zimbabwe’s poor population live in rural areas. A favorable share of Zimbabwe’s rural areas receives a good amount of rainfall and has fertile lands that can support both crop cultivation and rearing of livestock. What does the rural community lacks then? It lacks empowerment, empowerment from entrepreneurs. Who ever thought that the Command Agriculture model could even work better if also implemented by any entrepreneurs? It is a matter of giving the rural community inputs, teach them on productivity and I guarantee you that the outcome will be pleasing. Once the produce is ready for the market, you the entrepreneur markets the product to food processing companies and other urban consumers. You can as well develop a model of adding value to the produce and sell it as a finished product. Just do not forget to share profits with the producer as well as repeating the process. There is so much value in the rural community, it is however being overshadowed by doing things “the subsistence way”.
Providing healthcare services to the poor is also one way of fighting extreme poverty during the Covid Pandemic. I was so inspired by an Indian healthcare entrepreneur, Dr. Devi Shetty who has a hospital that charge the poor at break-even and allows them to pay what they can afford. Dr. Devi Shetty has created reliable healthcare system that even attracts the rich and foreigners, these then cover up the expenses associated with offering services to the poor. This has been a game changing model for the Indian Healthcare System. Dr. Devi Shetty has continuously added healthcare services that can also benefit the poor and partnered with the government in most initiative. The same can also happen in Zimbabwe if the right model is employed.
Another way that entrepreneurs can fight poverty during the pandemic is by creating employment. This we can do by continuously hunt for profitable opportunity that can as well benefit the community we are operating into. These can be Mining, Agricultural, Tourism or Construction related ventures. Let’s carry the burden of making Zimbabwe a better place.
Empower communities (social responsibility)
We can as well fight poverty by donating to different communities and institution. Imagine the impact we could bring to the community if every entrepreneur could pay fees for at least one underprivileged child and take care of his or her family as well. We can as well support children’s homes and donate something on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis.
Entrepreneurs have a special mandate to solve the myriad challenges that communities are facing. We have to play our role towards fighting extreme poverty.