‘Old Mutual committed to supporting entrepreneurs’

Samuel Matsekete
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Old Mutual Zimbabwe says entrepreneurship remains an important pillar of its responsible business strategy and is therefore committed to supporting the growth of businesses in Zimbabwe to drive economic growth and sustainability.

Group chief executive Mr Samuel Matsekete said this at an event to announce the winners of the Value Creation Challenge (VCC) in Harare on Tuesday.

The VCC is a flagship programme of the Eight2Five innovation hub, powered by Old Mutual, in partnership with the British Council and the British Embassy.

It aims to build a strong foundation for start-up businesses through interventions that help them develop and mature their business skills, strategic knowledge, and awareness of the markets and broader landscape they must navigate.

“With sustainable transformation at the core of how we do business, Old Mutual aims to empower beneficiaries of our programmes and products to be able to anchor them for great success into the future.

“The Value Creation Challenge is inspired by this mandate, and it has attained significant milestones to contribute to national development as the businesses grow their own outputs and employ more people,” he said.

Mr Matsekete said Eight2Five was a community of like-minded, highly innovative, and motivated entrepreneurs who aspire not to remain small but to grow their businesses.

At the Eight2Five innovation hub, he said entrepreneurs with start-up companies are given opportunities to connect with other businesspeople, learn new skills, or access mentorship from professional and experienced practitioners with Old Mutual or from partners.

“Indeed, qualifying ventures that have gone through Eight2Five stand to benefit from some finance facilities arranged through Old Mutual,” said Mr Matsekete.

The group’s chief executive said Old Mutual plc is a signatory to the United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI); similarly, Old Mutual Zimbabwe is committed to applying these principles in its investment and ownership practices.

“We believe the sustainability of new and innovative initiatives is critical to their success,” said Mr Matsekete.

According to Old Mutual group marketing, public affairs, and sustainability executive Lilian Mubaiwa, this year’s value creation challenge received 533 applications and an overall female participation rate of 22 percent, up from 8 percent in the previous iteration.

She said that to date, over 400 start-ups have been trained in the hub, and over US$70 000 has been distributed to start-ups in seed funding to grow their ventures.

“The start-ups that have participated in VCC have managed to secure additional funding from the private sector as a result of the exposure and training they obtained through the Value Creation Challenge,” she said.

This year’s winner was Tax Pal Zimbabwe, which got US$15 000 and was represented by Mr Takudzwa Chirawo (co-founder).

The first runner-up was Zambezi Ark Technologies, which got US$10 000 and was represented by founder Mr Tanaka Manyonga. The second runner-up was Lifeline Publishing, represented by founder Margaret Chideme, and got US$5,000.

Ms Mubaiwa said the Eight2Five innovation hub showed that the group believes in the power of innovation to drive meaningful change.

“The efforts to formalise and help give structure to young Zimbabwean businesses will go a long way in helping start-ups operate in a sustainable manner.

“As such, Eight2Five is focused on creating a modern, professional, and energetic work environment to stimulate entrepreneurial businesses and their teams’ creativity and productivity,” she said.

She noted that the VCC journey started in 2019, and at the time, Old Mutual partnered with the British Council, and this year the British Embassy also came on board.

Mr Brian Nyagwande, executive director of the Zimbabwe Youth Council, said entrepreneurship speaks to the solutions that we have as a country.

The acting development director and head of green growth at the British Embassy in Harare, Martin Alsop, said the United Kingdom and the Embassy in Harare were big believers in trade and investment in vibrant sectors, which are critical to driving growth in poverty reduction and economic development.

“One of our top priorities at the Embassy is to increase trade and investment between the UK and Zimbabwe, and we do that in a number of ways, such as harnessing trade agreements between the two countries,” he said.

Mr Alsop said there was a trade agreement that gives Zimbabwe businesses duty-free access to the UK market, and we take trade delegations of both Zimbabwe businesses to the UK and also investors from the UK to Zimbabwe.

“We also support companies like British International Investments, which is an infrastructure development group, and we bring them here for opportunities in key sectors such as agriculture, horticulture, renewable energy, and financial services.

“We also use our development budget, and last week we launched a new partnership with the Horticulture Development Council, and we are helping them to strengthen their capacity to increase horticulture exports and increase investments in the horticulture sector,” he said.

Mr Alsop said this is part of the Embassy’s vision to support inclusive growth in Zimbabwe aligned with the government’s National Development Strategy.

Chipo Kanyumbu, British Council Programme Manager Schools and Arts, said the network opportunities that have been created were fulfilling, bringing the participants closer and creating the ambience for collaborating and sharing rather than competition. – Herald