24 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Youth Hero Goes Green With Floor Polish Venture

First impressions can be misleading.

Lamaz Mazambara (30) of Marondera is quite an unassuming character. Equally modest is his workplace, which to the casual eye may pass as just another dumping ground. However, closer inspection will reveal an interesting project, something that is destined to catapult Mazambara to local town hero status.

Since receiving US$4 000 from a youth fund set up by Old Mutual in partnership with the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment, Mazambara is now experiencing brisk business that has a transformational impact on the Mashonaland East provincial capital.

In 2011, Old Mutual became one of the first companies to fully embrace Government's drive towards youth empowerment by partnering with the Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Empowerment to set up the Kurera/Ukondla Youth Fund.

Old Mutual ceded 2,5 percent in equity to set up a US$10 million fund that would be administered by its banking subsidiary, CABS.

This fund is meant to assist youths between the ages of 18 to 35 set up income-generating projects as a way of assimilating the youth into the mainstream economy.

The Zimbabwe Youth Council, which falls under the ministry, plays an integral role in mobilising, monitoring and building capacity for youths across the country.

Mazambara is one of the early beneficiaries of Kurera/Ukondla which enabled him to embark on the floor polish making project that currently employs seven people.

This project cleans up the streets of Marondera, taking waste plastics and converting it into paraffin and floor polish. Other key inputs are saw dust and wood off-cuts that are sourced from a local saw mill company.

"We approach our project from an environmental perspective after we witnessed problems faced by our people; the issues of cholera outbreak and typhoid.

"All these are caused by filth so we decided to invest in the area of waste management whereby we turn waste into resources for our people," said Mazambara.

"We applied for funding and received US$4 000 from CABS which we used to fund the completion of our structure that comprises a purification tank, water holding tank and condenser for holding steam.

We can now generate up to US$600 per day, from three shifts, but this depends on the supply of plastics."

"Before this project began, we just used to aimlessly roam around the streets, not sure of where we were going. Our life was nothing to write home about, but we're now looking at transferring this technology to other youths and very soon cholera and typhoid will be a thing of the past."

The floor polish is sold to local shops, schools, churches and vendors, but Mazambara notes some resistance from major retailers.

"The challenge we are facing is distribution. We know the guys, the retailers, but they don't want to entertain us. They say 'you guys are still young', but the truth is they are not opening gaps for us, even to just peep into."

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