Desperate measures as unemployment bites

Zimbabwe’s high unemployment rate and the prevailing hardships demand that youths come up with coping measures. Sandra Maricho, a graduate from MSU, tells her story.

Vendors - symptom of high unemployment [from Newsday]

Vendors – symptom of high unemployment [from Newsday]

I happened to be in Gweru’s city’s centre one beautiful morning. After a long spell in the countryside, I intended to locate the nearest internet café in order to check my email and do some random web browsing.

On my way to the café, I noticed there was a crowd of people surrounding the entrance of a popular joint in the city. At first I assumed that it was a road show of some sort taking place or just a scene where some street theatre group was performing. So I decided to join the crowd. To my surprise it was not what I was thinking. I was wrong. It was in fact an official opening of a poultry shop which was advertising its products and services which they claimed to be different from those offered by other old companies in town.

A tour around the country shows that there are a lot of poultry companies that manufacture and sell stockfeeds, vaccines and day old chicks. These companies are expanding because many people are trying to make ends meet as the economic squeeze bites. Nearly every household has its own fowl run. The difference is only the way their businesses are run.

Stiff competition

Fly-by-night companies are therefore now sprouting. Because there are so many of the poultry companies, the increased competition demands that they become more innovative. Many offer incentives that are different from their competitors in a bid to win customers. This new company had done likewise.

One of the most interesting ideas is that of connecting their customers to their markets. The customers are then offered training on how they can do their business and maximise profits.That way the company knows it will cash in on people trying to survive the economic hardships.

Whiling up time

It seems people now enjoy entertainment so that they can forget the hardships they face back home. I saw this when music was played so as to attract people passing-by the official opening of this poultry shop. A large crowd came and T- shirts were given away. They were not really given for free but one had to dance to the music on stage. If one is shy then it one leaves empty handed. At a time when many people can only afford to buy second hand clothes, the free T-shirts were understandably popular. It was on a Wednesday, a day when people should be at work under normal circumstances but they just loitered around the place.

High unemployment rate

Unemployment in Zimbabwe is said to be above 90% meaning that majority of people are suffering. There is nowhere they can be employed that is why they are now surviving from anything that comes their way. Some spend their day sitting on their scorch-carts waiting for customers who cannot carry their own luggage so that they can escort them to their destinations and get that precious dollar. However, they jostle for clients with the drivers of  unlicensed pirate vehicles who are now accepting very low amounts of money – as little as dollar for short trips within town. Everyone is looking for a way to put food on the table.

“We are all competing to get the Obama notes,”is now the anthem sung by touts each time they are asked not to disturb passengers who want to board buses at legal passenger picking points.

Educated but jobless

Every year there are thousands of graduates from universities, colleges and other training institutions but there are no factories or industries where these youths can be employed. It is so painful to stay at home with nothing to do looking at your graduation certificate and gown hanging on the wall.

Will dance for food

At the official opening of this poultry shop, I met one of my university classmates and we were discussing the hardships we were facing. He told me that he is prepared to do anything for a living, even dancing for the Zimdancehall guys as long as he is being paid. Just imagine a university graduate as a dancer for Killer T! I laughed at him but later realised that it was better for him to get the bucks than to be a loser in life.

Unemployed but making a plan

As for me, I am still yet to get employment but as way of surviving, I have traded my degree for cross-border trading. I simply import some wares from countries like Botswana, South Africa and Zambia and for now so far so good.

***

Sandra Maricho is a Midlands State University graduate. She owns two flea market stalls in Gweru where she lives. She is also a freelance journalist and fan for Manchester City.

 

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