In 2008, Zimbabwean entrepreneur, Clinton Mutambo  set up Uhai Media, a marketing agency that saw him working with government departments and the private sector. His work with Uhai Media got him on the Deputy Prime Minister’s Rebranding Panel and on the national STICT 2010 (Sports Tourism Image and Communications Taskforce). His clients included some of Zimbabwe’s biggest firms, like Innscor Franchising and Axcil Jefferies. Running the company was an exciting experience, he said. However, in 2011, Mutambo shut down Uhai to seek opportunities that would allow him combine his love for marketing and Information and Communications Technology.

The business of connecting businesses

This led to the launch in 2012 of Esaja Continental Services, an initiative aimed at boosting the volume of trade between countries and businesses in Africa. Esaja.com is a marketing platform committed to facilitating trade and cooperation between small and medium scale enterprises and big corporations on the continent. It is self-described as Africa’s business and yellow pages directory for distributors, suppliers, agents, buyers, wholesalers, importers and exporters.

“The key motivation behind Esaja Continental Services is to be an enabler of progress and prosperity across Africa,” Mutambo said. “By definition this means that our efforts should lead to more jobs being created as a result of traders accessing wider markets and ultimately more value addition is happening. The challenge is massive and exciting enough to feed our passion for Africa.”

Mutambo, a graduate of Watershed College, has noted that African leaders and policy makers have always made efforts to encourage trans-border trade, though without much success. The missing link, he noted, was the lack of information exchange, a void Esaja hopes to fill, based on the belief that trade is critical to the development of Africa.

Mutambo. Photo: techzim.co.zw
Mutambo. Photo: techzim.co.zw

How Esaja works

Esaja, an acronym for Empowering Solutions And Joint Action, is an online marketplace for traders across the continent to interact with one another and create a business network. The platform allows buyers and suppliers to display information about themselves and relate with one another through an internal messaging system, thereby expanding their markets and reach beyond their localities.

“Traders in most African countries are simply too small to compete with global peers that are used to addressing gigantic markets, Esaja is committed to boosting their business prospects. We achieve this by showing them that real opportunities exist next door to them and right across the continent,” Mutambo said.

Esaja, which operates from Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, has made a mark in over 15 countries in Africa. For his enterprise, he was named one of Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 Entrepreneurs for 2015. But the Bulawayo-born entrepreneur is not complacent about his success. He has said that Esaja is working to connect every trustworthy enterprise on the continent to opportunities for growth, because trade, and not aid, is the answer to Africa’s quest for development.

He gives his team, comprising an angel investor, a legal advisor, developers, creative partners and advisors, credit for the success of Esaja. Even with a great team, Mutambo has admitted that running a successful start-up is not the easiest undertaking. As he said in an interview with IT Web Africa, “It’s been a never ending marathon needing Kenyan determination, the tenacity of South Africa’s Springboks, and enough passion to match the fans of Nigeria’s Super Eagles.”

Mutambo has described himself as an ‘Afro-optimist’ motivated by an overwhelming desire to contribute to the growth of Africa. With Esaja, his ambition is to build a business that can contribute towards a better future for the continent, leveraging the power of ICT and his passion.

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