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Alba Iulia
Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Meet Zambia’s young entrepreneurs ready to take on the world

Economy Meet Zambia’s young entrepreneurs ready to take on the world

So what does Njavwa Mutambo, Tuliswensi Sinyangwe, Chaka Ng’ambi and Byenda Nkwanda have in common?

Well, they are all young enterprising Zambians and they are all alumni of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEP).

Launched in 2015, the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme is the largest African philanthropic initiative devoted to entrepreneurship and carries the foundation’s 10-year, $100 million vision to identify and empower 10,000 African entrepreneurs.

Founded by Tony Onyemaechi Elumelu, a Nigerian economist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, Chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa and Transcorp, the Foundation targets to create a million jobs, and add $10 billion in revenues to Africa’s economy.

The TEP alumni network comprises all Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs who have successful completed a 12-week training programme.

The four are part of several Zambians who have attended the mentorship programme between 2015 and 2016 and have each received between US$5,000 and US$10,000 seed capital to grow their businesses.

Just in March this year, 21 Zambians were among the 1,000 African entrepreneurs selected for the 2017 edition of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Programme out of 93,000 applicants from across 55 African countries.

Byenda Nkwanda, 21, CEO-Golden Traib

2015 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme Selectee and Golden Traib CEO Byenda Nkwanda
2015 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme Selectee and Golden Traib CEO Byenda Nkwanda

At just 21, Byenda is already on her way to creating a fashion empire for herself using her own fashion label Golden Traib.

Throughout her High School days, Byenda always wanted to become an entrepreneur and after leaving school, she was ready to launch her business but that it was merely an idea at the time.

It was not until 2015 when she was browsing through the local newspapers that she stumbled upon an advert which read, “Is your business worth 10,000 dollars?”

“And I thought to myself, it definitely is,” says an excited Byenda.

That is how the long application process began for Byenda, a Business school graduate from NIPA.

“Just the entire application process itself teaches you so much about your business because they really dissect everything that you are doing. So it really helped me put into perspective all my goals and it helps you decide what you really want to do,” says Byenda.

She said getting accepted into the programme made her feel validated that her business idea was solid and worth the shot.

“People always ask whether I applied because of the money, oh well, every business needs money but for me just the mentorship and the learning i received was such an eye opener and I learnt so much. One of the key things I learnt was the ability to stand on my own in my business,” she said.

Byenda said the entrepreneurship scene in Lusaka is challenging especially for young people.

“At the time I applied, I had just turned 18 and I was asking myself, how I am goona do this? There are sharks everywhere but going through the mentorship taught me so much on how to run my business and two years on, I feel I made the best decision of my life,” Byenda said.

She said she is seriously pursuing her business because fashion and designing for her is more than just a hobby.

“You know, I want to create a long standing change on my continent, its economy and the outlook on creativity in general. I want to do more than just make money, i want to create a positive impact that will pave a way for others today and future generations in Africa,” she said.

She said Golden Traib is contributing to creating sustainable businesses because it procures all the production materials locally.

“My vision is to create an industry and not just a fashion label.”

Njavwa Mutambo, 22, CEO and Co-Founder-Musanga Logistics

2016 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme Selectee and Musanga Logistics CEO & Co-Founder Njavwa Mutambo
2016 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme Selectee and Musanga Logistics CEO & Co-Founder Njavwa Mutambo

At the age of 16, Njavwa found himself dropping out of school. He was in Grade in 11 at David Kenneth Kaunda Technical School in Lusaka and his grades were falling.

He was later persuaded to go back and finish his High School and write his final Grade 12 exams. His passion then was running his first business-a food delivery service.

He was later to co-found Musanga, a logistics startup with the help of the Tony Elumelu Foundation and a Lusaka start up incubator called BongoHive.
Musanga Musanga (which means Fast-Fast), is a platform that enables users to send packages within Lusaka.

“The idea came after I was running a retail outlet (hustling) selling phones and stuff and it was very hard to meet the customers, then I met a friend who run a retail business and she told me how difficult it was for her to send packages through Lusaka. We looked into this problem and found that there are 12,000 estimated businesses around Lusaka that either sell a payroll, electronics, pharmaceuticals that were going through the same struggle,” Njavwa said.

He added, “we set up Musanga Logistics in 2016 and we got overwhelming response and we quickly hit a 1,000 transactions and we said maybe we are on to something, maybe this is not a dream. That is how Musanga Logistics started.”

Musanga Logistics currently has six members and a board comprising professional people drawn from the corporate sector.

“As Musanga, we enable commerce, we enable businesses to send packages. So we have signed up third parties who can deliver packages, this could be cyclists, motor cycle rider or a van owner.

He said Musanga had a very difficult start but that now things are looking up.

“It was a crazy start. We started off with no bikes and using third parties means we need scale from our customers. A bike was going for US$ 1,500, we didn’t have that money, so we managed to negotiate a deal with a bicycle retailer and they kind of bid on us. They gave us the bike and they just said somehow you gonna have to find the money to pay us and that gave us our start,” he said.

Njavwa says Musanga’s ambition is to become a big logistics player across the region.

“Our focus is to become a last mile delivery provider, meaning 30 KM radius and operate city to city. What we want is to be the number one delivery company within Lusaka and then move that model to the next city, be it Kitwe, Livingstone or Bulawayo and Dar es Salaam,” Njavwa said.

He continued, “We have a very detailed plan, we call it, 3, 3, 3. In the next three years, we are going to have an office outside Lusaka, then outside Sub Saharan Africa and in nine years, we goona have an office outside Africa and we are on course to achieving that.”

Njavwa said there is so much potential for African businesses to cut down on their transportation costs by utilising technology.

“It’s a pity that internet costs are high and that is a constraint because that stops people from utilising our mobile app but the upside is so high because 50 to 75 % of retail products in Sub Saharan African is because of transportation costs. So if we can bring that down to at least 30 percent using technology, there is so much opportunity in that space.”

Njavwa said being on the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship programme has opened up so many doors for him.

“I have learnt stuff that would probably take me years in a Masters programme to learn. Each time I am making a presentation whether at home or abroad, I always make it a point to put the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship programme and that instantly gives us recognition. This programme is the real deal for any young African entrepreneur,” he said.

Chaka Ng’ambi, Managing Director-Muchinga General Enterprises Ltd

2015 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme Selectee and Muchinga Enterprises CEO Chaka Ng’ambi on one of the field trips
2015 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme Selectee and Muchinga Enterprises CEO Chaka Ng’ambi on one of the field trips

Chaka is highly passionate about improving rural livelihoods through the provision of guarantee market access for small holder farmers.

His firm, Muchinga General Enterprises Limited is based in Mafinga District in Muchinga province offers a practical lasting solution in food for emergencies.

The business empowers smallholder farmers with solar water pump systems so that they can grow different nutritious crops throughout the year through irrigation and adapt to climate change and drought.

Muchinga General Enterprises Limited then secures market for crops such as cowpeas and common bean which are nutritious to motivate smallholder farmers to increase the volume of production thereby overcoming hunger and poverty.

“The business model for Muchinga General Enterprises Limited is to provide guaranteed market at the local rural for cereal and legume crops like maize, sorghum, millet, rice, common beans, soya beans etc. to smallholder farmers in the rural and sell to bulk buyers and processors. The target market of our products are bulk buyers and processors,” he said.

He added, “At the same time we, want the smallholder farmers at the local rural to be our customers for solar water pump systems with total dynamic head of 90 meters and pump flow rate of 4600litres of water per hour for irrigation of different crops throughout the year.”

Chaka said Muchinga Enterprises is also sensitizing and training smallholder farmers on improved farming practices using new innovative methods by installing solar water pumps for irrigation so that they have increased income and food security throughout the year as well as overcome the risk of drought caused by climate change.

Chaka said the idea of Muchinga Enterprises started in December 2011 after seeing challenges the smallholder farmers face in the rural to sell their crops every year as they lack the knowledge of where to sell the commodities to have income.

“We thought we could solve this challenge by providing guaranteed market of crops at the local rural. We built a small office in Mafinga District and fitted it with solar power system so that we could use it for office equipment like computers and printer.”

He added, “Since we did not have the funds, we thought of raising the funds by registering sim cards for Airtel Zambia Plc but that was a strategy to have the mobile numbers of the smallholder farmers in Mafinga District in Muchinga Province. Not much funds were raised with Airtel to embark on our core business of purchasing cereal and legume crops from smallholder farmers but that provided a database of the smallholder farmers in Mafinga District.”

Common beans sold to the WFP in 2016.
Common beans sold to the WFP in 2016.

Chaka said in January 2015, he saw and an advert on the whole page in the Post Newspaper which read, “Do you have an idea which can transform Africa? $100Million has been set by Tony Elumelu Foundation for 10000 entrepreneurs for a period of ten years and will provided training, mentorship and seed capital of $10000 for each entrepreneur. If you have the idea apply now”

“Then I said within myself and to my wife that I have a brilliant idea which can transform Africa and definitely I shall be selected. In the morning, I went to one internet café to apply. I did not finish my application that same day because I did not have enough funds to pay at the internet café but continued the following day because the first template of the application had challenging questions which required reasoning and understanding what was required,” he said.

Chaka said on 23 March 2015, he received an email from the Tony Elumelu Foundation that he was one of the 1, 000 applicants selected from more than 20, 000 applications from 52 countries in Africa.

“We started in April 2015, our online entrepreneurship training on how to run successful businesses and I was assigned a mentor. The training lasted for twelve weeks and the end of training I prepared a narrative report of what I learnt in twelve weeks and a business plan of my business to submit to the Tony Elumelu Foundation. In July 2015, we assembled in Lagos for a boot camp to meet other entrepreneurs from 52 African countries.”

He added, “All the expenses were paid for by the Tony Elumelu Foundation. After that I got the seed capital of $5000. By being a Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur, our business opportunities are vast because of being networked with other entrepreneurs in the 55 countries in Africa by the Tony Elumelu Foundation Alumni Network.”

“From the seed capital, a small selling outlet was purchased in Kabwe town at US$3,500 and a motorcycle to use to purchase crops from smallholder at the rural in Mafinga District.”

Chaka said in 2016, Muchinga Enterprises sold some common beans to United Nations World Food Program and invested much in capital items like warehouse construction for storage of the crops.

“We want to prosper together with the rural smallholder farmers and we are making more effort to source for funds to purchase solar water pump systems to be sold to smallholder farmers as long term loans so that they concentrate on growing of crops as source of income because of our guaranteed market at the local rural unlike cutting of trees for charcoal to sell which is affecting the climate change,” he said.

Chaka said the key lessons he learnt after attending the mentorship programme was that that it is difficult to get commodities on credit to trade in because of no track record but as long as the business idea is brilliant there are business angels who could provide the funds.

Tuliswensi Sinyangwe, 33, Co-Founder-Nchitonet.com

2016 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme Selectee and Nchitonet.com Co-Founder Tulislwensi Sinyangwe
2016 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme Selectee and Nchitonet.com Co-Founder Tulislwensi Sinyangwe

Tuliswensi is fondly known as Tuli by his peers. He founded Nchitonet in 2011 after obtaining a Bachelors degree in Information Science and Demography from UNZA. He wanted to use his passion of using information to help the general public.

“My ambition has always been to help young people realize their potential and to take the lead in creating an environment where they can learn and exercise their talents and innovation to make their world and of others a better place.”

“I decided to become an entrepreneur in 2011 upon realizing that the only hope for today’s future is turning small ideas into innovations that solve the target audience’s problems and creates small revenues to keep the business going. I believe that, when every young person learns the power of starting their own enterprise, they will find the freedom of self-reliance and build capacity to solve the world’s greatest challenges such as poverty and unemployment,” says Tuli.

He says as Nchitonet, “We are linking start-ups from local universities, colleges and communities with expert mentors, professionals, and experienced entrepreneurs to help them start and grow small successful business. We have developed an e-mentoring system that will facilitate our mentoring programs. Our goal is to cultivate 1,500 local small business initiatives in 10 industries that will create more than 60.000 jobs for local people in the next 5 years.”

In 2011, Tuli along with two of his friends worked with the Zambia Development Agency who helped them with company registration and understanding why company registration was important.

“Our focus then was to help people find jobs in Zambia by developing an SMS platform and allow people to use it and find jobs easily, that is how Nchitonet.com (Nchito means jobs) started and then we realised that there was more entrepreneurship support which was needed,” he said.

From 2012 to 2013, he was engaged with the Swedish Embassy in Lusaka and BongoHive where he obtained more training and around 2015, more organisations started coming to seek help on developing their E-libraries and cataloguing them.

“I never had any funding until early 2016 when I wrote to the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme. The application process was long. I could do for some days and not complete it. They would send me those emails reminding me to complete it and then five days to the deadline, one night around midnight, I gathered the strength to get up and completed the application.”

Tuli said he was happy to have been selected and attend the Boot Camp in Nigeria along with other 500 entrepreneurs and even received the seed capital he needed to grow Inchitonet.

He said the future of software development is bright as more institutions are now beginning to appreciate how technology can boost their businesses.


    • If funds being abused by cadres were properly utilized by a government which knows what it is doing our young people would not have to risk traveling to the boko haram country for 5pin.

  1. Nothing to write home about really!! Just a bunch of pimps and prostitutes and that’s what they have in common and you can’t call them business men and women for doing that.

  2. Don’t be so negative Chilyata, though not all of them will succeed, entrepreneurship is where the future of Zambia (Africa) lies, every giant business you see nowadays started small too, wish them well instead!…

  3. Chilyata sounds as if he has already given up on himself.Pick up yourself and persevere my friend, your situation may change. Good lack for the young business minded.

  4. Positive stories like this must be recognized. Every corporation however big, started small. I wish these young people much success.

  5. I believe in small ideas that make positive change… And I hope many young people can believe this change!

Comments are closed.

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