The Zimbabwe Economic Youth Foundation (ZEYF) was founded in July 2018. Mwana Wevhu talks to one of its cofounders, Chido Dzinotyiwei, about the organisation’s vision and why youth involvement in Zimbabwe’s economy is so important.
Mwana Wevhu:How did ZEYF come into being?
Chido Dzinotyiwei: ZEYF was created in 2018, last year. My co-founder and I, Paidamoyo Bodzo, we wanted to write our Economics thesis papers on Zimbabwe. But we were struggling to find reliable data, struggling to find papers written on Zimbabwe for our literature reviews. We were just really struggling to find sources on specific papers. She (Bodzo) wanted to public health and I wanted to do something along the lines of growth. So we started talking about trying to start a database of information, then we got a mentor, Professor Edwin Muchapondwa who’s at UCT.
ZEYF was officially registered in July 2018.
MW: Besides the academic database, what is your vision for ZEYF?
CD: ZEYF has grown faster than we anticipated. It’s grown the way we wanted, but it’s also taken a different turn. It’s a platform where people can come and genuinely ask, ‘what is going on’. There are a lot of things that people don’t understand about the economy, and we’ve noticed that people come to ZEYF for that information.
Sometimes we don’t have the answers, so we engage with other stakeholders in the economy, and what is nice to see is that people are actually willing to come and explain and contribute to ZEYF. Part of ZEYF’s other vision is to become a safe haven for young people to come and ask why: ‘what is happening, why is it happening, how does it affect me, what opportunities do I have?’ We also want to make it (ZEYF) a reliable and credible organisation, such that if an international entity wants to come and do work in Zimbabwe, ZEYF is the go-to institution.
“One of my biggest visions (for ZEYF) is to see it become a driving force for change with gender equality in professional spaces.”
MW: In the months since starting ZEYF, what have you learned in terms of working in Zimbabwe’s economic terrain as a young person and as a woman?
CD: Wow, okay (laughs). So, first of all, as a woman, they don’t see you. You are not seen. My project leader is a guy, so whenever I’d go to meetings and I’d go with him, they’d always address him first. They’d be like, ‘okay Tawanda tell us about this idea of yours’. And he’d say, ‘oh I actually can’t tell you because it’s Chido’s idea’. And after that is when I would get some attention, but I’ve been to some meetings where people would look at me like, ‘what is this girl talking about?’ The more we talked and the more I answered questions, the more people had faith in me, but it was almost like I had to prove myself.
ZEYF had its launch event on 10 December 2018 at the University of Zimbabwe.
Now in terms of working in Zim’s economic terrain, there was a point where we wanted to cancel the launch because of the currency crisis. We decided to just go on with it, and by God’s grace it worked. But it’s really difficult. You can’t plan anything accurately, it’s a lot. And it (the different exchange rates at the time) make our documents obsolete when we want to give them to someone else for reference. So Zim is just…it’s a lot. But for us, we just value having to do something and produce something for future generations to use and to know about this time. If you think about it, we have had over 30 years of undocumented economic activity, which is such a disaster. How will future generations know where we went wrong?
MW: On a personal level, why are you invested in ZEYF and what it stands for?
CD: There are a lot of things. So, 1: I’m Team Build Zim. I literally strive to do everything I can to build my country whether I’m there or not. I’m also just tired of relying on other people to tell me about me. I don’t like always having to rely on the World Bank and all these other organisations to tell me about what’s going on in my own country. I always speak about how as the youth we need to build each other up. We need to support each other’s businesses and projects and initiatives, but you can only speak so much until you do something. I’m very passionate about young people and what they know, because if they don’t know anything it makes it very difficult to build what we want to build.
“I’m just really fulfilled by helping the youth. ZEYF’s a non-profit, I don’t get anything from it. It makes me happy to do this work and fight for it to reach its own goals.”
MW: How do you feel about Zimbabwe’s economic trajectory and future? And has your work with ZEYF influenced your opinion in any way?
CD: Zimbabwe’s economy is a disappointment and it’s being fixed slowly but we still have too many leakages in the system. Some are covered with mere plasters that don’t relive the strain effectively and in a sustainable way. Also our leaders seem quite detached from reality. So the majority of people who live below international middle class standards are hardly accommodated which pushes them closer and closer into hardship and poverty.
I personally believe that there is no better place to be a young driven person than in Zimbabwe.
We have nothing! And that is such a huge opportunity to build and create things. Yes there are many factors that hinder progress like money and lack of funding but the best time to sow seeds is now, in the middle of the storm.
Work is it’s ZEYF has given me hope because I have hardly come across any ‘No’ from people I’ve asked for knowledge or mentorship. People are genuinely keen to work with committed people, but the macro economy is not conducive right now and it discourages people a lot which is very understandable.