Friday, 22 March 2013



By Josh Chigwngwa

“It is easy to think of donors as being some rich people somewhere overseas whom we will never know. No one is so poor that they cannot make a difference somewhere. So long as we look at ourselves as victims, we become the problem. A gift of a few books to your old school could brighten some child’s day. If you do not make a difference, nothing may become any different any time soon. Complaining never built anything.  Do something!” 

Inspirational quote from Zimbabwe’s Motivational Speaker, Milton Kamwendo


Linda Satimburwa is one of this year's Nominees for the ZimAchievers (UK) Community Champion Award 2013 and below is a transcript of my one-to-one person interview with her conducted recently in Essex. I was humbled and inspired by her commitment and selfless devotion to literally move mountains with the palm of her hand.One such person she supported is Ms Faith Matingo who graduated in Accountancy from the University of Zimbabwe among more than 120 people she has funded using her own hard earned cash from working extra hours voluntarily

Linda Satimburwa, originally from Zimbabwe started a self-funded project in 2008 to pay school fees for underprivileged kids from her rural community in Honde Valley, Mutare. She grew up in the same rural village and understands their story. She is a devoted Christian, a dedicated mother of two boys and is so committed to her cause largely due to her background, experiences and upbringing. This background inspired her passion and commitment to fund children from her rural community. Her driving Motto is, “Be the change that you want to see in this World! Be active on the front-line and create the change you seek”. Linda has developed a burning desire to reach out and give less privileged children an opportunity to develop academically to their full potential despite their poor background.

She is a down to earth women from Honde Valley

Linda, CEO and Founder member of Nolpert Trading Pvt Ltd, was inspired by the Zimbabwe Business Network (ZBN) to think outside the box and broaden her sphere and scope of operation. Linda’s passion and drive for business and charity is taking her to greater heights. This journey has taken her to rub shoulders with high profile business persons such as Mike Southon the Beermat Enterpreneur and Financial Mail Columnist, Caroline Marsh Channel 4 Secret Millionaire, Sir Allan Sugar, Betty Makoni CNN Hero and Founder of Girl Child Network World Wide, Justina Mutale CEO Positive Runway, Conrad Mwanza CEO Zimbabwe Business Networking, PR Guru Mavis Amankwa CEO Rish Visions, Washington Kapapiro CEO AAOE, to mention a few.

She pioneered an on-line networking group, “The Power of Networking”, which falls under the “Nolpert Brand”. The Power of Business Networking showcases Linda’s road to success, profiling successful and upcoming entrepreneurs. Since inception in July 2012, the brand has attracted 155 members who are active in business to share ideas, contacts and building networks to encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship. She has a diverse educational background which includes secretarial studies, hotel management, nursing and midwifery and is currently studying a B Sc Honours degree in Family Planning and Women’s Health.

Linda strongly believes that every child has a right to a good education. However, this is still far from being a reality, the majority of African countries especially children in the rural areas. A lot of children still fail to access education due to lack of resources and poverty. For the fortunate ones to be in school, often they are forced to attend classes out in the open due to lack of facilities such as decent classrooms, desks and chairs. “By supporting young disadvantaged children in my area, l hope to sow seeds in their hearts to create a domino effect to transform lives and future generations” She retorted.

Linda’s first engagement as a public speaker will be at Betty Makoni’s “Never again” book launch next month in April where she will speak against domestic violence how it impacts society. She has previously had an opportunity to film and do interviews at the launch of  the Charity "Help Us Help Ourselves”, founded by Stephanie Chiyangwa and has at the "Sister-to-Sister" mentoring programme hosted by Viola Ncube,  CEO and Founder of iRock UK. The Zimbabwe Business Networking (ZBN), was Linda's first ever Business Networking event she attended in the UK.  

You can follow Linda on the Group's face book page “The Power of Business Networking” . Please keep the votes coming and support, make the Rural Children Proud. Thank you.

Below is a transcript of my interview with Linda Satimburwa

Josh: What motivated you to engage in community work?

Linda: My personal experience of poverty ignited the insatiable appetite to educate, empower and to bridge the knowledge gap in my rural community were l grew up and went to school. The struggles in my community compelled me to start a self-funded project to alleviate poverty and committed to sponsor disadvantaged children into education since 2008 as well as advocating for positive change to my community. 

Josh: Did you find it easy setting up your charity, what are the challenges you have faced?

LINDA: Personally, l didn’t see it as a challenge as such because it's something that l was very passionate about, l know l faced some difficulties here and there, but I made a personal commitment to do the work. It’s something I have always wished to do stemming from the poverty l experienced. I set out each month to do six extra shifts each month to kick start it, being a nurse and a midwife as well. Through networking with the Zimbabwe Business Network (ZBN) in the last 2 yrs, l was inspired to look beyond established frontiers of my business venture, "The Power of Business Networking” falling under the Nolpert brand. The Power of Business Networking showcases my life transformation journey to success and profile successful and upcoming business owners. Since its inception in July 2012, the concept has attracted about 155 members who are active in business to share ideas, contacts and building connections to encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship

Josh: How has the community around you welcomed this project?

LINDA:  They were very surprised about the idea, because in my rural community, l was the first person to do such a thing. We have always relied on donors such as Plan International or World Vision, and so it amazed them and lots of people visited my mother appreciating the inspiration she had nurtured me to prioritise in the community.

Josh: What are the highlights of your achievements or activities you have carried out so far?

Linda: My focus so far is paying school fees and exam fees, so far that is what l could afford. I know there are other things to be done such as building classroom blocks, library books, uniforms etc. I thought the key issue at the moment what to enable the children to enrol in school and sit exams and then if l expand and get other people to help so that l can register a charitable organisation so that l can have more help coming in. .  I said to myself “Be the Change That You Want to See in This World”. Be actively on the frontline and create the change you seek. To reach out, give someone an opportunity to develop academically to their fullest capability regardless of poverty. I hope to sow a seed in the hearts of the students I help so that a domino effect can be created to effect continuous positive change to future generations. 

Josh: What hurdles have you overcome working with people from different backgrounds and cultures?

LINDA: When I came to the UK, it was a real culture shock, so l had to learn how to interact with other cultures. It is very important how you present yourself and to learn how to approach different situations affecting people from different backgrounds

Josh: How has your effort in this project impacted communities in Zimbabwe?

LINDA: I am passionate about the welfare of the children and through my work in Honde Valley, some have managed to go as far as University and made positive changes in their lives. I managed to obtain consent from some the beneficiaries and these include Kudzanayi Sagwete who passed 10 ‘O’ Level subjects and now doing A level at Samaringa, Febie Saruwaka passed 9 subjects at O level and is also doing A level at Samaringa, Locardia Marowa passed A level with 12 points and waiting to enrol in University, Tapiwa Jaricha and Bright Ndarasika passed A levels  and are now all in University, Danny Masara graduated from University and is now a Journalist, Josephine Magota is now a qualified Teacher and Tonderai Chitsamba who is in the Police Force. So far I have assisted about 120 children since 2008 with either school fees or exam fees depending on the need.

"I feel poverty should not define us; every child should be given an opportunity to unleash their full potential and to be a success in life.  I want to reach the hard-to-reach children in remote schools - thus my work is rooted and focussed in the rural areas."

Josh: How did you feel being nominated for an achievement award?

LINDA: It came to me as a surprise, l am very grateful to the people who nominated me, it’s something l never expected, l thought l was doing something privately and no one would notice what l was doing. I am so humbled and it’s something l least expected and feel inspired.

Josh: Do you have any message that you think can inspire other people to emulate your achievements?

LINDA:   I must point out that it is no secret that the majority of our African people are still not yet used to the concept of giving back to their own communities as people do in the western world, a concept which I am aiming to instil among Zimbabweans. I am aiming at nurturing this culture among our young people by grooming them as well as fostering the same spirit among adult Zimbabweans who have made it in life, to give back to their own communities, for life is all about sharing resources. I think we need to together as people from Africa and see how we can unite and try solve our own problems. Some of the problems have been going on for many years and it’s high time we took responsibility for our own problems.

Visit to vote and book tickets for this event!!!

A ZCG Production - Rights Reserved.

Saturday, 16 March 2013


"If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation". Ghanaian scholar Dr James Emmanuel Kwegyir-Aggrey (1875-1927), one of this century's greatest educators had this to say !!

By: Josh Chigwangwa

Community Category ZAA 2013: Community Champion Nominee

What is the vision that inspired Morleen Okolonji to devote part of her precious time to charity? What is it that inspired her to set up this charity, "Women of Substance Community" (WOS) in Barking, Essex? Morleen was this year nominated for the Zim Achievers Awards (UK) 2013 Community Champion due to be held on Saturday, 20th April 2013 at the magnificent Millennium Gloucester Hotel in the heart of London. Visit I to vote and book your seats on-line, tickets usually sell fast on a first-come- first-serve basis due to event popularity and limited capacity.

I was privileged to share a precious moment over a cup of tea with Morleen and getting her to pour out to the world, what it is that inspired her to work for her community in such an amazing fashion. I realised that it takes a devoted heart and selfless commitment to be a woman of substance. I trekked Morleen all the way to Barking in Essex, UK and am grateful of the hospitality l received and rare moment to open her heart, believe me you, it is made of real oak and she is such an awareness and amazing character. She has lived up to the celebrity fame, “The Only Way is Essex”.

Morleen Okolonji is the founder member and CEO of Women of Substance, a community organisation based in Barking, Essex working with young people to nurture, educate and empower them to lead a life of pure substance, free from drugs, alcohol abuse and gangster life fuelled by peer pressure thus depriving young people an opportunity to play an active role in building successful careers in life. According to UK official statistics,  in December 2012, 974 000 young people aged 16 to 24 were unemployed, representing 20,8% whilst 1,62 million 18-24 year olds' were economically inactive in the period October to December 2012

Morleen is a trained counsellor, advisor and teacher, currently studying Masters in Teaching and Learning at Edge Hill University in UK and a Minister of the gospel. She was born in Harare, Zimbabwe and has a passion for women who have been oppressed, abused and disadvantaged as a result of their life circumstances. She has a unique role that allows her to reach out holistically especially to women. She also has a passion for young mothers having previously had a challenge of having a child at an early age herself.

Below is a transcript of my interview with Morleen. It was amazing to realise how she has impacted diverse communities and positively contributed to tackling head-on, challenges faced by the UK's Coalition government. This is a clear testimony of how migrant communities are resourceful and contributing to greater good within communities.

Josh: What motivated you to engage in community work?

Morleen: My motivation was triggered by growing youth unemployment and the infamous London riots and preceding disturbances thereafter. The aim was to encourage as many youngsters especially girls off the street and into something constructive and fun-filled. I focussed my target at under-represented 16-25 yr olds’ with the goal of encouraging them back to reconsider learning and acquiring new skills, rebuilding their confidence, giving advice and training as well as entrance to possible job opportunities to give the youngsters access to a better life

London riots inspired me to make a difference

Morleen: The Project is also aimed at supporting young women that have showed a definite interest in training and working in the hair, fashion, and beauty industry, who have made an effort to attend group sessions. “WOS” is growing and expanding by the day, the project is helping an array of youngsters and women who get trapped in that never ending circle of despair and hopelessness. It is also helping to break them out of this circle and we’ll help give them the focus.

Supporting youth people to gain confidence and to be focussed in life

Josh: Did you find it easy setting up your charity, what are the challenges you have faced?

Morleen:It has not been easy because I had to go through a lot of paper work and challenges that can set you back but with perseverance and the right people behind me, “l prefer calling them my “CONFIDANTES” it all worked out for good.

Josh: How has the community around you welcomed this project?

Morleen:“Ohhhh!!” she shrugs, “It was with open arms, I identified a need and filled in the gap and they have been so supportive of WOS to the point that we were even nominated for a Peace Award 2012 for bringing people together by the Council” She beamed at me as I smiled back in admiration.

Morleen Okolonji with the Mayor of Barking and Dagenham
Peace Award for Bringing People  Together

 Josh: What are the highlights of your achievements or activities you have carried out so far?

Morleen: WOS has helped more than 300 men to identify their mission, vision and to unlock their potential through coaching and mentors, with some success stories. About 150 women were supported to start small businesses, 80 were supported to go back into education and more than 100 into employment.

One such person is Shannon Storey who has managed to secure a job and her own business as a result of winning the Miss BD Role Model 2012 project. She is also due to receive her £1 200 package with La mode. With the title, Shannon is going to be an “Ambassador of Change”. She is signed under the “Women of substance” for the next one year to work on projects such as promoting health and peace awareness to young people. She will be the voice for less privileged and above all, a role model for young people.

Young Women attending sessions to gain skills to start businesses

Josh: How have you found it working with people from different backgrounds and cultures?

Morleen: Very informative, fun, an experience every human being should get a chance to do, you become aware and appreciate  the difference people of all walks of life have  e.g.  the way we talk, eat, relate, socialise.

It’s very educational for me and l loves it so much because l has managed to have friends from so many different countries.
Uniting diverse communities from different cultural backgrounds

Josh: Do you have any plans to work with deprived communities back home and other parts of the world?

Morleen: Definitely!  l feel like setting WOS here in the UK and the success its had for the past 5 years, has been a learning curve for me, with everything l have learned and experienced l feel like am really equipped and ready to take WOS to Zimbabwe and really impact Women and their families’ lives, l have already started working and making plans for this.

Morleen: Women of Substance” prides itself on integrating people from diverse communities and cultures to enjoy a shared vision.

Morleen:So Zimbabwe “Watch this Space”

Josh: How did you feel being nominated for an achievement award?

Morleen: Am very  honoured to have been recognised by my fellow Zimbabweans, it has given me a feeling of acceptance and appreciation ,  because most of the time we hardly support ourselves and l appreciate what ZAA is doing, its sending a message of togetherness and unity between the Zimbabwean community.

I also feel like all the people that were nominated are all winners and blessed, because it’s not easy to do what we do in a foreign country, well done!  To all of them, they make me so proud to be a Zimbabwean.

Josh: Do you have any message for other women or young people about your experiences so far?

Morleen: Keep doing what you are doing in time you will achieve!!  The power of unlocking your vision or mission is to do what YOU love doing, e.g. if you love waking up every day and going to work as a nurse, mother, wife, teacher. social worker, community worker, etc  for me that’s your ministry that’s your “calling as a child of god!, Ministry does not always mean you have to be a Pastor and open a church, the ministry is in our everyday jobs, so if you are doing what YOU love doing already you are impacting lives. Morleen can be contacted by email on:

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”- Kurt Vonnegut.

A ZCG (UK) Production - All Rights reserved.

Thursday, 14 March 2013


in this blog, my focus features the value and importance of initiatives to empower vulnerable communities ravaged by the global financial and economic crisis. The blogger, Josh Chigwangwa is a founder member of CobFin Finances Services launched in Harare in 2002 as the pioneers of Micro-Finance credit as a means of bridging gaps and inequalities to access resources. In the latest report, reporter Lucy Conger speaks with Anne-Marie Chidzero about her career in Africa’s microfinance industry, the developments it has undergone in recent decades, and the work ofAfriCap, where she serves as CEO. An edited transcript of the interview follows.

A daughter of Zimbabwe before it won independence, Anne-Marie Chidzero was raised in Africa and Europe. Her studies and work took her to Canada and the United States, but she always knew she would return to Africa. Chidzero studied economics, inspired by her father’s role as finance minister in the newly independent Zimbabwe. Unlike her father, she focused on the private sector in her master’s degree studies. “I felt strongly about the role of the private sector for Africa,” she says.

Early in her career, she worked with small enterprises at the UN Center on Transnational Corporations. There, she honed her skills in identifying entrepreneurs and creating entrepreneurship training and platforms that linked small business with multi-nationals and the financial sector. On joining the World Bank in 1993, her work broadened to include micro, small, and medium businesses. As part of the team that launched the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), a multi-donor initiative aimed at improving financial services for the poor, Chidzero conducted financial appraisals of microfinance institutions (MFIs) and led training in best practices for MFI staff as well as donors and governments.

She moved back to Zimbabwe in 1997 and then to South Africa where she has consulted on microfinance and financial sector development while raising her two children. Chidzero has spent the last 10 years dedicated to making markets and financial sectors work for the poor. As a consultant to FinMark Trust and in various roles at AfriCap Microfinance Investment Company, Chidzero works to adapt regulatory and policy frameworks for financial inclusion at the bottom of the pyramid and seeks to introduce innovations such as microinsurance.

At AfriCap, she manages the equity investments of the fund. AfriCap buys shares in regulated MFIs and buys quasi-equity (such as convertible loans) in MFIs that are not yet regulated, aiming to convert them to equity holdings once the MFI becomes a regulated entity. All of the invested companies of Africap are managed by Africans.

Reporter Lucy Conger spoke with Chidzero by telephone, in her office in Johannesburg. An edited transcript follows.

Conger: How did you get started in international development?

Chidzero: My passion for development work stems from my upbringing. My father, a native of Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), worked for the United Nations for a long time. As we could not live in then-Rhodesia because my parents were a mixed couple, we lived in Ethiopia, where I was born, Kenya, then Switzerland. My father always spoke of his dreams for Rhodesia. Later, my father became finance minister of independent Zimbabwe and that greatly influenced my desire to contribute to the African continent from an economic perspective. There was a slow shift at that time away from a more socialist to a more capitalist approach to development and the private sector was seen as the engine of growth. At the United Nations, I worked with transnational corporations in developing countries, creating links between small businesses and corporations as part of the value chain.

Conger: You were directly involved with the World Bank’s initial forays into microfinance and with the launch of CGAP. What was your role there?

Chidzero: At the CGAP, I traveled to African countries to identify the World Bank role in microfinance. At the World Bank, microfinance was seen as a tool for poverty alleviation. They understood the importance of getting this right. My role was to share best practices with country offices in Africa and to feed microfinance into the strategies for the financial sector and the Bank’s country assistance plans. I always believed the private sector was the way to do this; that is a thread throughout my career.

Conger: What are the landmarks in the development of the microfinance industry in Africa?

Chidzero: When I began working, microfinance in Africa took the form of either large, informal savings clubs or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) providing revolving funds and not focusing on interest and repayments. When we engaged with policymakers, they couldn’t understand how you charge interest on loans for the poor. Equity Bank of Kenya was a landmark, it convinced people that one can profitably serve this market, and Equity Bank is run by Africans. Now, there is a real understanding among policymakers that microfinance is part of the financial sector and policies and regulations must provide an enabling environment for microfinance to grow and for the development of more inclusive financial sectors. And also to support innovation in the financial sector to the benefit of those that do not have access to financial services.

Conger: What is Africap’s strategy for investing in MFIs?

Chidzero: We’re fully invested, so our strategy now is to build our institutions and create shareholder value. Twelve investments are MFIs at various stages of growth, one is a payment platform, another is a bank working in the cell phone transactions space. We are also looking for opportunities to exit [from] some of the investments.

Conger: How do you strengthen the institutions, and how is capacity-building financed?

Chidzero: Africap takes an active role in the operations of its portfolio companies.  Through its technical assistance facility, Fintech Africa, it is able to provide capacity-building support and TA to AfriCap portfolio companies. FinTech provides technical assistance in areas like management information systems, and it trains investee staff in risk management, financial analysis, governance, accounting principles, and skills for loan officers. FinTech also places experienced technicians in MFIs for two years and there they train operations managers, finance directors, and audit managers. FinTech allows us to accelerate institution-building. The costs are shared, with 40 percent coming from the MFI and FinTech providing the remainder with funds provided by international donors.

Conger: What are some of the innovations you are working with?

Chidzero: Cellphone banking is being introduced through FinTech, which is preparing all Africap investees with management information systems that can eventually engage with cellphone banking. One of the Africap investments is a tech company with a platform for mobile banking and the use of cards, and another investee is a company with leadership in cellphone banking. Mobile banking is promising due to the low population density in Africa and the low costs and high penetration of cellular service on the continent. We’re on the tip of the iceberg.

Conger: How do you evaluate the success of Africap as a model for private financing of microfinance in Africa?

Chidzero: The jury is still out. We have successfully done three exits during the first and second funds and these generated positive returns. We have also made losses, and had to write off some institutions. There are lessons both in terms of Africap’s investment decisions and the spread of the portfolio. We tried to diversify country risk/political risk, and also have a large footprint across the continent. With 14 investments across the continent, and a very small investment team, overseeing the investments becomes a challenge from a cost and human resource perspective.

Conger: What other challenges does the fund face?

Chidzero: It’s been tough, one needs to have a long-term horizon. Microfinance is a difficult business. For those who think they can invest and make a quick financial return in Africa, I wish them luck. We have lost some value in our portfolio and are working now towards increasing shareholder value and building strong, profitable institutions with good outreach. We see good potential for this as we work closely with FinTech. I believe the glass is half full. I’m very excited about the challenges and opportunities this portfolio holds to generate both social and financial returns.

Conger: Would you change the investment strategy?

Chidzero: If I were to redo this, I would say, “Let’s find African leaders who have a passion and vision for microfinance, and support them to realize their vision.” To a certain extent we have done that. I also think a regional approach makes sense. We could focus on institutions that could forge joint ventures across national borders. I would also reduce the number of investments, and provide more capital to fewer companies. I believe we have a unique formula – where we can combine TA support with equity, while playing a very active role in the operations of the investments. We are all, at AfriCap and Fintech, from the board to the management team, working towards making this formula a success story. It is going to take a lot of hard work and dedication.

Conger: In addition to providing equity capital to MFIs, Africap also plays an active role in governance of MFIs. What are the contributions Africap has made through its governance role?

 Chidzero: We grouped all of the CEOs of Africap investees into an Africap network which meets once a year. There, they share lessons and business ideas. At the last conference, the focus was on governance and leadership and the role of a board for MFIs. Africap sits on all of the boards of our investees. We try to see that the boards of the MFIs use practices of good reporting and good understanding of the financial statements. We’re encouraging our institutions to report with transparency and to join the Association for Microfinance Transparency. Additional support comes from FinTech, which is developing a training initiative on governance for the portfolio companies.

Conger: From your vantage point overseeing investments in MFIs across Africa, how do you see microfinance evolving on the continent?

Chidzero: The story is “watch this space.” There are a lot of fragile institutions. The issue we deal with is how to do microfinance economically—the jurisdictions are small, population density is low, and finding human resources is difficult. There is a lot of demand for microfinance; building up the staff and operations of the institutions are real challenges. Africap wants to build leadership; that is key.

Conger: It seems remarkable how work with the private sector, financial access for the poor, and Africa are interwoven in such a consistent way throughout your career.

Chidzero: I knew at university that I was going to be a daughter of the African soil and make a contribution to the continent.

Acknowledgements to Annie-Marie Chidzero, Lucy Conger, Center for Financial Inclusion and the World Economic Forum.