In the bustling shanty town of Epworth, on the shores of the capital Harare, where poverty and unemployment rates are high, a young man is defying the odds and pursuing his dream of becoming a chef.
Meet Davies Chigodora, a young man who is on a mission to become a successful chef, despite the serious struggles that his community faces.
Epworth, a sprawling community, is home to over 100,000 people, many of whom live in extreme poverty.
The area lacks basic infrastructure such as paved roads, electricity, and running water, making it a challenging place to live and do business. However, Chef Davies is determined to use his passion for cooking to create a better future for himself and his community.
Through hard work and determination, Chef Davis has honed his skills in the kitchen.
Together with other 474 youths, Davies benefitted from the Harare Urban Youth Empowerment (HUYE) project, implemented by Plan International in partnership with Standard Chartered with the aim to tackle inequality by promoting greater economic inclusion in their markets, such as Zimbabwe.
“We didn’t have the knowledge to run a business, so we managed to gain entrepreneurship programs from PLAN International,” he told this publication.
The program, he said, taught him and his peers how to use their profits to generate more income. With the support of the program, Davies started his own catering business, offering his services for small events in his community.
He quickly gained a reputation for his innovative dishes that combine traditional Zimbabwean flavours with modern culinary techniques.
“If you do a business with no knowledge, you will be going nowhere. So, at first, our business was not going well because of a lack of knowledge. After the entrepreneurship programs, we started to see how our business was going to move forward,” he noted.
After the training and with the knowledge acquired, he began to realize more sales and increased profits.
“When we started to implement this from November to December, our sales went very well but the thing that brought us down was that some people within the group started splitting profits and starting their own businesses,” he added.
Regrettably, only two of them remained in the business which gave birth to a series of challenges.
“We were now unable to deal with the clients that we had gotten before because we were now only two. Of the two of us, my partner managed to get a big tender and he broke away from the partnership and started his own business as well, so now I was left alone. I had to turn down some opportunities because of lack of manpower,” he lamented.
Despite these challenges, Davies has remained undaunted. He is determined to succeed and hopes that his success will inspire other young people in his community to pursue their dreams, no matter how challenging they may seem.
“Now I just work alone. I do catering and snacks. I make platters which include Samosas, Sausage Rolls, Mini pies and Half-moons. The platter goes for $35, and the pies are $1 for 2 because here in Epworth if you set prices with a few cents more, you won’t get a market,” he said.
However, Davies is not content with just being a successful caterer in his community. He dreams of expanding his business and breaking into the larger culinary market in Zimbabwe.
“So, if you sell in places like in the central business district or outside of Epworth, the business moves faster and better because those people are used to an up life unlike here in Epworth,” he added.
To achieve his dream, Chef Davies is seeking new markets to penetrate the culinary world. He is attending culinary events, networking with other chefs, and using social media to showcase his dishes to a wider audience.
Despite his success, Davies remains committed to giving back to his community and continues to work with the Plan International youth program to support other young entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe.
Plan International has been working to support young people in Zimbabwe especially after most of them lost their livelihoods due to COVID-19.
“In Zimbabwe, the partnership was developed to support youth affected by COVID-19 especially young women to pursue decent work and viable entrepreneurial opportunities.
“It also ensures that young people are financially literate, are more resilient towards future shocks and are knowledgeable of how to start-up SMEs through revolving funds and savings groups,” said Oriah Musendo, Programme Coordinator of the project.
Musendo noted that the project also ensures that youth leaders from grassroots youth-led civil society have strengthened their capacity to identify and advocate for socio-economic opportunities for young people, especially women.
The project falls under Plan International’s pillar on Skills and Opportunities for Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship (SOYEE).
The project is working with 475 young people between the age of 16 and 35. Of the 475, 80% are aged between 16-24. Additionally, at least 60% of project participants are female (285 women and 190 males). Of the 475, 29 young people have disabilities.
“My word to young people out there is if you have a talent, use it to benefit yourself. I never knew that snacks could help us to make money because we even managed to buy some things using money from these projects. We managed to buy gas stoves using money from these projects,” he noted.
However, to manage all this, Chef Davies said there is a need for more manpower.
“I need more manpower, if I can get two or three more people, it can boost our markets. There were some schools that we were supplying pies with daily but now I can no longer supply them because I am just by myself, so if I could have a joint venture with someone interested in this, it could boost my market.”
To this end, Chef Davies would have realized his other dream of creating employment for his fellow youths but that, he added, needs one to be visionary.
“We also managed to realize that if you create employment without a vision, you won’t get anywhere. If you have carpentry skills, if you can cook, if you can sew, use that opportunity to go far.
So, to the youth I just want to say use your talents to earn your own money, this can also help with the drugs situation because if you are busy with work, you won’t have time for drugs and you won’t have to ask for money from anyone”