First Innovation Challenge Awards Ceremony celebrates local entrepreneurs

First Innovation Challenge Awards Ceremony celebrates local entrepreneurs

Small business owners are greening Zimbabwe’s economy from the ground up.

On 15 March 2019, 28 small- and medium-sized businesses were recognized for their sustainable ideas and green practices. The winners are entrepreneurs, business owners, and catalysts for change. The Green enterPRIZE Innovation Challenge is a key part of the ILO’s commitment to transform Zimbabwe’s economy. The organization is investing in green entrepreneurship to protect the environment and advance the Future of Work agenda in the region.

“This is just the beginning of bigger and better opportunities,” Sekai Nzenza, Minister of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare, said in her opening address at the awards ceremony.

Finalists competed across nine categories and pitched their green business plans to a panel of 20 judges. The top contestants will receive financial support, as well as one year of business development services. Nzenza applauded all applicants for their work, emphasizing the positive impact of green business ideas on society and the economy. David Nyakonda, of the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development, commended the ILO and its partners for creating the innovative business competition.

“Today’s ceremony is a valid testament of the ILO’s commitment to promoting employment and green enterprises in Zimbabwe,” Nyakonda said.

Even non-winning contestants benefit from the networking and business opportunities provided by the Green enterPRIZE initiative. ILO Country Director for Zimbabwe Hopolang Phororo praised the human-centered approach of the programme. It supplies budding green business owners with managerial and entrepreneurial training, helping them develop the skills they already have. And no two contestants have the same idea. In fact, Tonderai Matongo, a representative of the Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe, said that he was delighted by the diversity of the contestants’ innovations.

“I think it’s a good day for enterprises in Zimbabwe when the respect and promotion of the environment is encouraged and rewarded,” Matongo said.

He also expressed his gratitude for the Government of Sweden’s financial support, which has allowed Zimbabwe to work toward achieving what he calls a “green dream.” Mette Sunnergren, Head of Development Cooperation for the Swedish Embassy in Harare, highlighted the number of women and young people that entered the challenge.

“We are happy to see our feminist foreign development policy reflected in the work that we support,” Sunnergren said.

Across the country, more than 250 people registered their green businesses or ideas through the Green enterPRIZE web platform. Of those, 117 completed applications for the challenge. Judges shortlisted 90 contestants and invited them to small group training sessions, where contestants discussed and developed their business plans. The 28 winners and runners-up are set to receive financial support, one year of business development services, or both. Service providers include the ILO and its technical partners.Nathan Banda, a representative of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, identified skills development, entrepreneurship promotion, and sustainable business practices as the next steps toward greening Zimbabwe’s economy.

“There is serious desire to ensure the promotion of a just transition to a greener economy,” Banda said.

May 17, 2018