A Story of Hope: Mbuya Easter Chidzonga, an entrepreneur re-invented
January 25, 2016
Mbuya Easter Chidzonga used to make a living as a cross border trader travelling to South Africa and bringing in goods for resell. Now she has started a business manufacturing and distributing cordials to neighbourhood shops in Chitungwiza as well as Dema growth point, Mashonaland East.
Over the last decade, as economic hardships deepened in Zimbabwe, many women such as Mbuya Chidzonga resorted to informal cross border trading (ICBT) in order to improve the welfare of their households. ‘When I was a cross-border trader, I would go to South Africa and bring back stock to resell.’ However, as the market became stiff with competition and local manufacturing began to regularise, the profitability of cross border trading declined.
According to Mbuya Chidzonga, ‘the market is now so flooded; many people are doing the same thing – everyone is going to South Africa to bring back the same things to sell. Right now I have a pile of 2 in 1’s from last year still unsold’. She points to a pile of blankets that are gathering dust in a corner of the living room.
Fig 1: Mbuya Easter Chidzonga shows off the cordial she manufactures, Chitungwiza
‘After I stopped going to South Africa, I spent some months wondering what I should do next to earn money, then I got some advice from a relative. Sekuru Zvaremhaka showed me how to make drinks using powders from South Africa’.
In order to finance her diversification into the cordials business, Easter Chidzonga obtained a loan of $500 through Virl Microfinance, a local Financial Services Provider (FSP) receiving wholesale funding from ZMF. With these funds she purchased bottles, caps, labels and the ingredients for her product. She now sells the 2l product branded ‘Propan’ to individuals, local tuckshops and small supermarkets in Chitungwiza.
Though the business is less than a year old, it is nevertheless brisk – retailing at $1 per bottle, her brand is cheaper than the average 2l cordial hence its popularity. In addition, Mbuya Chidzonga has managed to create a strong network of customers amongst local shops and tuckshops to move her stock. With the proceeds from her drinks business, she is taking care of her grandchild as well as building a house at Dema growth point. After successfully selling some cases there she saw the potential for a profitable niche market targeting rural stores. Her plan is to obtain a further loan to open a cordial manufacturing business in her rural home in preparation for her retirement.