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University Entrepreneurship Education: Lessons from PaNhari in Zimbabwe

Anamaria Karrels and Brianda Hernandez Cavalcanti

In Zimbabwe “people are so hungry for the opportunity,” said Kimberly Kujinga of PaNhari. With an 80-90% unemployment rate, university students often find themselves with a university degree but nowhere to apply their skills and knowledge. To address the incompatibility between traditional university curricula in Zimbabwe and the skills students need in order to succeed as professionals and leaders in their communities, classmates Phil Mlanda and Donald Bodzo co-founded PaNhari. PaNhari is a Zimbabwe-based business incubator that provides training in entrepreneurship, employment readiness and leadership development at the University of Zimbabwe and the Catholic University of Zimbabwe. Over 750 students have graduated from PaNhari’s university accredited program. Funded by the Mastercard Foundation, PaNhari is one of the eight recipients of the Youth Economic Participation Initiative.

PaNhari program leaders (left to right): Kimberly Kujinga, Marla Chaneta, Donald Bodzo, Phil Mlanda

On December 1, co-founders Phil and Donald, program manager Marla Chaneta, and campus coordinator Kimberly Kujinga visited Tufts University, home of the Talloires Network secretariat, to discuss the work of PaNhari. The organization’s vision and activities provide direct support to students who have an idea to begin their own business. One PaNhari participant, Clive, founded the organization Aquaponics which increases organic farming production four-fold while reducing water consumption by 90%. Aquaponics began with a small PaNhari grant which allowed it grow and expand.

PaNhari is life changing and impactful, in part, due to the professional and personal development the students undergo while participating in PaNhari. Through the PaNhari curriculum, students learn how to manage and solve tough situations and value their own skillsets and abilities. Kim recalled an exercise she personally had to do in one of PaNhari courses, “The instructor asked us to get a chair. She then asked us to sit down, stand up, sit down, and stand up. We repeated this process six to seven times until one of my classmates finally said to another classmate, “why are we doing this?” To which the instructor responded, “Exactly. Stop doing things just because someone is telling you to do them.” Kimberly explained that this exercise made her aware of a mindset she had failed to call into question – a mindset of doing what you are told, which Zimbabwean youth develop in response to the culture they are born into.

PaNhari teaches students to question the processes that govern their everyday actions and to find the small windows of opportunity for change. Identifying these small windows of opportunity is a skill PaNhari teaches its students. Marla Chaneta spoke of a time when she had to step back and put away her “wonder woman suit and let the government official feel important” in order to achieve what she needed to do. Her story underscores the importance of adaptability, a vital skill for successful entrepreneurs.

PaNhari is completely student run and gives students and opportunity to take on a variety leadership roles. PaNhari’s projects and priorities are shaped by the student’s ideas and needs. They can choose to take on a leadership role within the organization, as Kim and Marla did, thus continuing to provide a student-centered perspective.

However, the successes of PaNhari do not come without challenges. They have to maneuver around top-down bureaucratic systems, a volatile political climate, and learn to balance funder priorities while staying true to their values and mission.

PaNhari’s work in Zimbabwe is creating new opportunities for young Zimbabweans. They are not only changing the lives of the students, but the lives around them and future generations.