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Divcon Business Solutions’s TEF, YALI, SEED STARS and ACT Alumni Gilbert Kamusasa seeks to modernise Africa’s Pharmaceutical industry through MedFind.

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Gilbert Kamusasa’s  Divcon Business Solutions, a Zimbabwean start-up specialising in software development, market research and product development is currently working with the pharmaceutical sectors of Zimbabwe and Zambia towards modernising the pharmaceutical industry in Africa through their innovation called MedFind. 

The solution which will be launching soon in these first two countries will help patients and pharmacies to procure their prescription and non-prescription medicines with ease.

“MedFind is a web based virtual pharmaceutical platform that allows patients to procure medicines online from pharmacies of their choice. With four major pharmacy chains having already signed up in Zimbabwe, what the customer simply has to do is to sign up or create an account in order to get access to pharmacies of their choice.” Said Kamusasa

The MedFind innovation which was part of the Seed Stars Zimbabwe’s top 5 innovations for 2019 also won the ACT Entrepreneurship competition and was selected for the Tony Elumelu Foundation entrepreneurship program where it also got funding.

Gilbert, an Accountant by profession who once worked at Deloitte encouraged job seekers to immediately follow the entrepreneurship route through coming up with solutions that address real needs or problems than to always wait for employment.

“My advice to young entrepreneurs is, start now! Money will eventually come if your idea addresses real customer needs/problems.” ….Currently entrepreneurship is the way to go if you have what it takes. Don’t wait for the right moment, start now!” he said 

….”When we started Divcon, we didn’t have any money, we used to meet in food outlets for update meetings. We would walk around town on foot and sometimes empty stomachs doing market research for MedFind. Once we had proved our concept well, we approached a local doctor and he gave us our first funding, but it was after a lot of hard work.” added Gilbert 

zwnews24.com’s Brian Kazungu had an interview with Gilbert in order to find out more about his business and his personal insights on a number of socio-economic issues.

zwnews24: Would you briefly describe yourself and the background, nature, and mandate of your business?

Divcon: My name is Gilbert Kamusasa, I am the CEO and co-founder of Divcon Business Solutions (www.divconsolutions.com). Divcon is a technology-based consultancy company that focuses on providing a wide range of solutions to businesses and individuals. We help businesses/individuals solve their day to day problems through a process called design thinking. During this process, we dig deep into the problem at hand through empathising with those facing that problem. After thoroughly understanding the problem, we then come up with a solution that best addresses that problem. The solution is prototyped, tested with the users and pivoted (if need be) until it adequately addresses the problem at hand. 

zwnews24: What is the main motivation and major push for you to engage in the business that you are involved in?

Divcon: We love solving problems and we have the drive to make the world a better place through providing simple solutions that address even complex day to day problems faced by businesses or individuals.

zwnews24: What are the different products and services that you are offering? Would you describe what each of these products and services is all about and the intended benefit of each of these to your targeted and actual clients?

Divcon: Our main service as Divcon is problem-solving. We help businesses and individuals solve any problems with regards to business that they may have. We also provide basic consultancy services such as software/website development, company registry, tax registrations, market research and product development. We are currently working with the pharmaceutical sectors of Zimbabwe and Zambia to provide what we see as the best solution to modernise the pharmaceutical industry in Africa called MedFind. The solution will help patients and pharmacies procure their prescription and non-prescription medicines with ease. We will be launching the product soon in both countries.

zwnews24: How has the market responded to your products and services so far since inception and what can you attribute to such kind of response?

Divcon: The Zimbabwean market is a tough one for businesses trying to introduce new products/services into the market. Due to trust issues the market does not quickly accept new products and businesses. A lot of patience and time is required for a new business to be able to penetrate the market. The policy inconsistencies by government have made it worse. For example, some of our solutions for customers were developed based in USD and when the government banned the official use of the USD we had to change the whole business model to suit the new government requirements. However, it seems the economy is ‘re-dollarizing’ itself and we may have to readjust soon if the government chooses to dump the RTGS. 

zwnews24: What is it that is unique about yourself, your team and your services, that sets you apart and which helps you to stand out among various service providers who are in the same category with you?

Divcon: Working hard and smart, and quickly adapting to situations has helped our business survive this harsh economic environment. I work with a team of smart, intelligent and hardworking ladies and gentlemen. We work as a team and we treat our work seriously. Our solutions address real problems being faced by businesses and people. We provide tailor made solutions be it software based or physical products and that’s what customers are looking for.

zwnews24: What do you believe and understand are the main advantages to your clients when they make use of your company products and services in addressing their needs and wants.

Divcon: The major advantage is we are a local company providing solutions that suit our environment. We don’t copy and paste solutions from first world countries. We spend more time understanding what our clients need and provide solutions that best suit their needs.

zwnews24: Do you have any background in this industry? If yes, how could this have helped you in identifying the business opportunities behind your entrepreneurial drive?

Divcon: I am an Accountant by profession and I worked with Deloitte (an audit firm) for 6 years. During that period, I got to understand various business models and operations though the audits that I conducted in a wide range of industries. Above all I am a TEF Alumni, YALI Alumni, Seed Stars Alumni and an ACT Alumni. All these some of the best entrepreneurship programs available in Africa and they have helped me attain more business knowledge.  I am also a self-taught software engineer with experience in python, HTML, CSS, Django, Flask and Bootstrap. In our team we also have a Marketer, Chemical Engineer, 2 Software developers and another Accountant. This gives us a competitive advantage as a team because we have a wide range of skills that can offer better solutions to customers. All the above have also helped me in identifying viable business opportunities.

zwnews24: What can you look back at and say that so far, this has been your major achievements as an enterprise and what do you believe has greatly contributed towards such achievements?

Divcon: As a company we are still very young and we still have a long way to go. Our first main product is MedFind which won the ACT Entrepreneurship competition, was selected for the Tony Elumelu Foundation entrepreneurship program and got funding and was also part of the Seed stars Zimbabwe top 5 innovations for 2019. We have also done some basic consultancy work for over 10 local start-ups, 1 big listed company and 1 local NGO. Hard work, innovation, as well as focus and discipline have helped us immensely thus far.

zwnews24: In a world where most people, especially the youth are failing to start and run their own enterprises because of lack of capital, how have you managed to launch and operate this initiative?

Divcon: I always argue that capital is not the problem, innovation and execution is. Where there is a good idea that has been tested and proved, capital can be sourced. Most young people want to raise money first then think of an idea or start implementing their idea but it is supposed to be the other way around. When we started Divcon, we didn’t have any money, we used to meet in food outlets for update meetings. We would walk around town on foot and sometimes empty stomachs doing market research for MedFind. Once we had proved our concept well, we approached a local doctor and he gave us our first funding, but it was after a lot of hard work. My advice to young entrepreneurs is, start now, money will eventually come if your idea addresses real customer needs/problems. 

zwnews24: It is a fact that the current economic situation globally and even in your country is challenging. As such, what is it that has helped you as a business to continue operating under some difficult conditions that you have encountered?

Divcon: As a company that provides business solutions, it is actually our job to help other businesses to survive any challenges. One of the strategies that we always advise our customers is to have as many revenue streams as possible, and also, to do some work that can earn you foreign currency. You must also make sure that you have a solution or product that is scalable across the world. Businesses also have to keep up to date with the economic activities and adjust their business models as they go until the economy is stable.

zwnews24: What are and what has been some of the operational challenges that you have encountered so far in the pursuit of your entrepreneurship vision and how have you dribbled past them?

Divcon: The major challenge for us has been the economy and the inconsistency in government policy. We overcome these challenges by making adapting fast and making quick and precise decisions. We have also begun the process of setting shop in other African countries.

zwnews24: Based on your experience, what advice can you give to unemployed youths and many other job seekers concerning entrepreneurship as a way of creating employment for themselves and others?

Divcon: If you look at the current economic setup in Zimbabwe, it is 90% informal and that’s not a good thing for job seekers. It is going to take us 10 years or more to be able to build an economy with more than one hundred 1 billion-dollar companies that can employ at the scale of Econet or Delta. Currently entrepreneurship is the way to go if you have what it takes. Don’t wait for the right moment, start now!

zwnews24: What are the current challenges happening in your industry or country, which are affecting the viability of your business? In that regard, what are the strategies that you are putting in place for you to achieve your goals?

Divcon: To us, it goes back to the economy, policy inconsistency, lack of support from government for genuine upcoming entrepreneurs like some of us.  Currently everything is polarised and politicised and that’s killing businesses in Zimbabwe. That is why we have begun looking at other African countries.

zwnews24: Where do you foresee your business in the future and what legacy, history or impact do you want your business to have in your community, country or across the world? Why do you have such convictions?

Divcon: We see ourselves making a huge impact in Zimbabwe, Africa and the world at large because we provide simple solutions that address real problems. We are happing to create employment and wealth to our employees as well. 

zwnews24: How do clients and other stakeholders engage your business? How do they get in touch?

Divcon: Phone: 0715592622 / 07150071450 | email info@divconsolutions.com | Website: www.divconsolutions.com | Office: 72 George Silundika Avenue Harare | Social Media: @divconsolutions – FB and @BusinessDivcon – Twitter
#. The questions in this interview are adapted from the book, The SME HANDBOOK written by Brian Kazungu: https://amzn.to/32hZSlb

Business

An Analysis On How Zimbabwe Can Harness Local Capital To Its Own Advantage

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The Zimbabwean government’s adoption of the Open For Business mantra in its approach towards unlocking investment is a good public relations act which must be accompanied by an enabling policy framework that not only attracts foreign investment but one which also respects local capital and thus stimulating local savings and investment.

 Zimbabweans on their own can play a critical role in unlocking the country’s economic Rubik’s cube since IMF Loans and World Bank Grants or any such foreign lines of credit will achieve very little in the absence of local goodwill.

During these economic difficulties that the country is going through, it is important to consider that hardworking, focused and resilient Zimbabweans have the capacity to bring back their economy into full throttle and high productivity. 

However, this can be possible when there is efficient allocation of local capital and when incentives for participation in building the economy are right since after all, capital goes where it thrives. . 

Over the years, in my formal and informal interactions with people across the board, I have conversed with friends who have felt safer investing their money elsewhere than in their own homeland Zimbabwe. 

As a result, many great local ideas have been exported to other more functional economies as enterprising Zimbabweans, despite their love for their country, they had to make the tough call of taking their intellectual capital where it can yield better returns. 

On one occasion, I accompanied a colleague to pitch his business idea in a neighboring country where we were well received in the business sense and this alone made it more appealing for him to establish in that country.

The government must therefore understand that local capital is an essential economic building block and that the entrepreneur and local investor is an ally who must be recognized, accommodated, promoted, protected and be celebrated in order to spur economic development.

Zimbabweans as a collective citizenry, i.e. both those in the diaspora and those at home can make a significant contribution in reviving their economy as long as they understand and believe that their capital is safe and that they themselves are welcome, respected and protected. 

Once local capital thrives, Zimbabwe will become a honeypot that attracts even the most skeptical of investors since capital as a resource, it goes where it gets the best incentive and reward since no investor can ignore a good return underpinned by a stable economy. 

That having been said, the question that comes to mind is how then can we get local capital to work for us? 

The answers to this question are listed below:

  1. We need to probe how many local investment deals have fell through and why and what we can do to get them on track.
  1. We need to help the informal sector, the small business owners to scale, give incentive to local lenders to shift to lending for productivity as opposed to consumption. Zimbabwe is bubbling with potential and so is the rest of Africa. The question we should always ask when crafting policy is, ‘why would private capital prefer us?’
  1. We need to articulate a different policy direction that is inclusively underpinned by broad consultations with Zimbabweans. Zimbabweans must invest locally and also be encouraged to invest long term first before international capital can find real comfort here. 
  1. We need to harness the diaspora dividend. 

Implementing the afore-mentioned can bring an end to speculative investing and rent seeking behavior which is destroying the economy. 

Local capital understands its own local environment. The fact that over 60% of Zimbabwe’s economy is informal proves that Zimbabweans are prepared and willing to work for themselves and their country. Should these hardworking Zimbabweans be given the requisite support for them to continue being productive, then economic stability would be guaranteed.

Zimbabwe’s diaspora is another important constituency in country’s development matrix. For the last two decades, the diaspora community have proven their importance to Zimbabwe’s economy. If only we can get them to participate in broader economic activities through more pronounced savings and investment. 

Locally based Zimbabweans including local institutional investors have often received the short end of the policy stick despite their resilience and willingness to continue building. For instance, how institutional investors like pension funds recovered from the 2003-2008 spell is a miracle. Similarly how they are surviving after February 2019 is also an interesting subject considering the limited investment instruments available on the market. 

These institutions are a key cog in stimulating savings and investment for any economy globally. 

To put this into perspective, NSSA alone was collecting an average of US$200 million during the multi-currency era, not mentioning other statutory as well as private pension funds. 

The above illustrates the potential and capacity for the country to succeed using local capital. 

In closing, I will reference my 12 May 2014 chat with my late mentor Joseph Sagwati in which he wrote.

 “You dont fly out to woo capital, you sell yourself to investors through an accommodative framework of policies on ease of doing business in a conducive environment where the sanctity of private property and enforceability of rule of law are sacrosanct and indivisible. Once this happens, Zimbabwe will ignite the required glow that attracts investors without wasting taxpayers’ money on empty global junkets with a begging bowl.”

Zimbabweans can build Zimbabwe and once we start, the rest of the world will join us. 

Prechard Mhako | Business Development Consultant & Economic Analyst | Email consult@abiyedu.co.zw

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Zimbabwe’S Re-Introduction Of The US$: The Best Test For Any Functional Currency Is A Crisis!

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With the COVID-19 pandemic in our midst, our government has yet again made another hurried and fishy pronouncement which has re-enabled the use of the United States dollar which they had banned only 9 (nine) months ago. 

The re-introduction of US$ into the economy has mainly been reactionary as the government gets into a panic mode because of various reasons including the fact that the major source of forex which is diaspora remittances will be heavily affected during the lockdowns being imposed by various countries. 

Even though it is common knowledge that in any functional economy, policy consistency is the key to success, our government seems to think otherwise as they have been making confusing policy pronouncements over the past two years, driven by corruption and greed.

I am going to outline what the press statement by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe means and the implications that it has on the wider economy as well as to businesses and the general public. 

Below are the 4 major sticky points for me:

  1. THE GOVERNMENT HAS ALLOWED THE USE OF FREE FUNDS FOR LOCAL PAYMENTS

My first question to them is: Can someone walk into the bank and withdraw USD from their Nostro Account? Personally, I don’t think that the government will allow people to withdraw USD because they know people will clean up their Nostro accounts. However, this would have been the major boost of confidence for people to trust that the policy above is genuine. Another question which they need to address is: Will they be allowing cash purchases or its just free funds? If the measure is only for Nostro, it makes the whole process another heist of the Nostro accounts. 

By allowing the use of USD as a currency, there will be a lot of implications for the economy. Firstly, the economy is going to slowly transition from being a cashless economy to being a cash (USD) economy as long as this policy is in place and by end of the year, the economy would have fully re-dollarised. The thorn in the flesh for the government when the economy becomes a cash economy is that a cash economy is difficult to monitor and to earn revenue from compared to a cashless economy. Such a development will lead to the shrinking of government revenue because there is a potential for a lot of unrecorded/unaccounted transactions in the economy as people and businesses try to evade tax. 

This, therefore, means that at one point the government is going to revert back to banning the USD and letting the already dead RTGS become the main currency or the unlikely option of making the USD the sole functional currency again.

Given the lack of trust that people and businesses have on our government, customer deposits into banks will be very low and this will mean that the government has a few USDs to play around with. Most businesses will either store value in hard cash or offshore accounts. Also bear in mind that the amount of free funds currently in banks is a very small fraction of the total cash (USD) in circulation on the parallel market

The solution to this huge problem is customer confidence which is currently almost nonexistent. Unfortunately, the solution to the customer confidence problem is political will and good governance of which our political masters have for a long time dismally failed to show forth.

  1. GOVERNMENT HAS SUSPENDED THE “MANAGED FLOATING EXCHANGE RATE” AND FIXED THE EXCHANGE RATE AT 1:25

In my previous article on this platform, I contested that there is nothing such as a “managed floating exchange rate”. I predicted that the black market will continue to thrive and this has been the case. The government had to give in and remove such a policy because it showed a lack of understanding of economic fundamentals.

Now that the government has explicitly fixed the exchange rate between the USD and the RTGS while allowing the use of the USD, it marks the beginning of the death of the RTGS. We are going to see businesses demanding USD and the black market thriving until the USD becomes the official currency again.

Fixing the USD to RTGS rate will also see those in higher powers who can get USD at interbank rates benefiting heavily and feeding the black market with forex at a huge premium.

The solution to this problem is the same as that of Point 1 (One) above, which is customer confidence.

  1. REDUCING OF STATUTORY RESERVE RATION FROM 5% TO 4.5%.

The RBZ has also reduced the amount of deposits banks are supposed to keep as reserves in order to increase the lending capacity of banks to corporates. This would have been a noble idea in a transparent functional economy. It is a public secret that the majority of businesses with access to such facilities from banks are those owned by or linked to corrupt politicians. This then provides another opportunity for looters to loot through loans. 

As such, a proper framework and a robust vetting system should thus be put in place in order to enable banks to thoroughly review businesses that they want to lend money to and then the priority should be given to key economic drivers without favour.

  1. THE ISSUANCE OF OPEN MARKET OPERATIONS (OMO) CORPORATE BILLS.

These bills have been used to steal from companies quite a number of times and I hope companies are now wiser. Currently, no wise company will buy bills from the government given the current world economic status.

After the COVID-19, most economies including first world counties are going to require bailouts and because of that, it is important to understand that a bailout can only succeed with a strong currency and we all know that the RTGS is not a currency at all. 

That is the reason why the government has made this panicky policy which is half-backed and rather too late. 

If our nation is hit by this virus very hard like what’s happing in Europe and recently in the United States of America, our economy will collapse and need resuscitation. 

Unfortunately, the RTGS will not be able to do that job since it is not bankable anywhere in the world and this means that we will need a stronger currency like the USD, which is the reason why there has been this sudden shift in policy by our government.

In conclusion, our economy is like an ailing human body whose organs are failing one by one until the body shuts down. We are nearing the shutdown and as such, immediate genuine attention is required to save the little that’s left to talk about in our economy.

By Gilbert Kamusasa

Tony Elumelu Foundation Alumni

Young African Leaders Initiative Alumni

SEED STARS Alumni

ACT Alumni

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Africa

Corona Virus, A Food Security Threat To Africa – Dr. Brylyne Chitsunge, Pan African Parliament Food Security Ambassador.

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Dr. Brylyne Chitsunge, the Pan African Parliament Ambassador for Food Security in Africa said that the outbreak of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a serious food security threat to this continent where some countries are surviving on food aid from donors across the world.

She highlighted that the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic which has drastically affected stock markets and international trade has also unfortunately brought along some logistical challenges with it which in turn affect the movement of food aid to countries that need it the most.

The Food Ambassador attributed the logistical challenges to some lockdowns and travel bans that are happening in some seriously affected countries like Italy whose facilities are critical for the movement of goods to other parts of the world, especially to Africa.

Dr. Chitsunge described the crisis as a multi-faceted tragedy that calls for informed cooperation among all stakeholders because of its far-reaching consequences in the various aspects of people’s day to day life especially when it comes to access to critical life-saving resources.

Concerning the on-going food crisis in some African countries, she said that there is a need to urge farmers to diversify their crops given the persistent drought conditions in some parts of the continent which are making productivity for crops such as maize to be very difficult.

She added that Africa has also been affected by pests and diseases affecting crops and animals, a development that can be attributed to changes in weather and poor grazing land management.

In order to reduce and avoid food shortages in the future, she called for the adoption of sustainable land management and agricultural systems which safeguard livelihoods and enhance crop resilience in response to the impact of climate change.

Dr. Brylyne Chitsunge – Mustard (Tsunga) Field at Elpasso Farms, South Africa

Dr. Chitsunge who is also a farmer herself is partnering with schools and universities to promote a farming culture and has also opened her Elpasso Farm in South Africa to decision-makers, journalists and students in order to give them an on-site educational farming experience.

Speaking on the opportunities associated with cannabis, she said that Studies indicate that it could be one of the key agricultural commodities from Africa.

She further revealed that in Zimbabwe alone, hemp (cannabis) production has the potential to replace tobacco

The Ambassador who is also a Strategic Advisor to decision-makers in several governments warned that there is a potential risk of promoting clandestine channels for its trade if legalisation and commercialisation of cannabis are not well regulated. She, however, showed excitement on the awakening that is happening in SADC concerning the legalization of marijuana citing that so far, Zambia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Lesotho have all legalised cannabis, with Malawi having recently legalised the growing, selling and exporting of cannabis for research and medicinal purposes.

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