Young female entrepreneur changing waste management norms in Zimbabwe

female entrepreneur

Kudakwashe Dhliwayo is a 25-year-old entrepreneur from Zimbabwe focused on environmental sustainability. She has set up her own green business called Vital Recycling. Kuda participated in SNVs Opportunity for Youth Employment (OYE) and recently shared her journey as she strives to venture into the world of business and entrepreneurship in Zimbabwe.

Kuda, you have set up your own recycling company. Tell me more?

I’m the founder of Vital Recycling, a waste management and recycling business. Vital Recycling helps corporates and communities to better manage their solid waste through recycling. Recycling helps to reduce greenhouse gases because it saves energy and diverts materials from incinerators. Goods made from recycled materials require less energy than goods produced from virgin material. If the demand for plastic continues to grow at its current rate of 4% a year, emissions from plastic production will reach 15% of global emissions by 2050.

Inspired by the targets of SDG goal 13, Vital Recycling is currently running an environmental awareness campaign called 'Target 13'  to take urgent action against climate change. Targeted mostly at communities and corporates, its main goal is to combat environmental pollution, promote sustainable waste management practices and turn waste management norms into daily habits.

What was your motivation to set up this enterprise?

My story goes back to 2014 when I was an intern in a pharmaceutical manufacturing company and first started learning about the challenges faced by corporates when trying to comply with environmental regulatory laws. In response to this problem, I started thinking of solutions for businesses as part of my final year project at the National University of Science and Technology. After having worked in the waste management and recycling sector for 2 years, I realise that this is still a developing industry in Africa. In Africa, more than 50% of the waste is collected by waste pickers (UN Habitat 2012) who are not appreciated or recognised by recycling companies or governments. They work under abhorrent conditions without safety clothing, with minimal payments and are exploited by the recycling companies.

Kuda is running an environmental pollution awareness campaign called Target 13

Kuda is running an environmental pollution awareness campaign called Target 13

Vital Recycling a waste management and recycling business.

Vital Recycling a waste management and recycling business.

As a young woman did you find it difficult to enter the green jobs market?

Entering the green jobs market as a young female entrepreneur has not been easy. Female entrepreneurs are not taken seriously by male employees, potential clients and customers. You must work twice as hard, you need to be tough, resilient and persistent, making sure that you are diligent in everything that you do. I have had to find my voice and speak up, taking bold steps to grow my business so that people can see that women are also capable of entering this market and create decent job opportunities.

What other bottlenecks did you encounter?

The main bottlenecks for entering the green jobs market are lack of technical expertise and skills to start green enterprises that will fast track climate action. The absence of these skills coupled with lack commitment by governments to create enabling environments for green businesses, is very challenging for young people entering the market. We need green economies that support green enterprises with finance and structural policies before businesses in this space can become highly profitable. Many people consider profitability.

You participated in an Opportunity for Youth Employment (OYE) training course. Was it of benefit to you when setting up your business?

I have learnt a lot from the OYE training. Not only from experts and advisors but also from other participants. I grasped fundamental human resources and financial management concepts which are very important for running and making a business successful. I also learned basic entreprise development and leadership skills. The programme has also facilitated linkages with key stakeholders in both the private and public sectors.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

An important lesson is that private sector, governments and civil society organisations need to work together to promote youths and women to champion climate change. Youths and women are ready and are playing pivotal roles but more support is needed to create more impact. This is a climate emergency and action is needed now!

Interview conducted by Sinead Crane.