Gerald Chirinda is an entrepreneur, community builder and thought-leader from Zimbabwe who spends his time figuring out ways to innovate and design entrepreneurial solutions that can address society’s needs. His entrepreneurial nature has allowed him to be involved with startups and early stage companies in Zimbabwe, in various areas which include financial technology, healthcare and finance. One such company is Educate, an education access and people improvement company which he co-founded with Terrence Mugova. He is the Founder and convener of Future Africa Forum, a community of young African thought-leaders, change makers and actors from across the world, convening to discuss the continents future; it’s most pressing challenges and offering solutions for the challenges.
This is Africa (TIA) caught up with Gerald Chirinda to find out more about his work and vision for young people.
TIA: Let’s talk about financing education in Zimbabwe, how did that come about and how does it work?
GC: Educate was born out of personal experience in trying to raise tertiary fees for Terrence (co-founder) and my sister who both studied outside of Zimbabwe, during a period where foreign currency was scarce. This experience birthed a passion in us to not want to see families go through the trauma that we went through in trying to access a basic need. We then started Educate, which is on its way to becoming the education ecosystem funder of choice while also helping to improve the quality of education and improve the lives of people. So we’re not just financing education in Zimbabwe, we just happen to use loans to educate people.
TIA: Why Future Africa Forum?
GC: When you look around Africa, it is a continent filled with young people, and this is going to be the trend for the next three decades, as our continent is set to double in population between now and then. As this growth is taking place, it is equally important to take stock of where we are currently. Some of the facts are not encouraging, for example, 10-12 million youth are joining the labor force yearly, with the job market being able to absorb only 30%. Our food import bill currently stands at US$35 billion per year, and we have over 200 million people who are under-nourished, yet we are home to 65% of the world’s most arable uncultivated land. Approximately 600 million people are currently without access to modern energy, these are just some of the reasons why Future Africa Forum exists, so as to pick up from where our leaders have left off with the hope of passing on an Africa three decades from now that see it’s people not just survive but thrive. It was Albert Einstein who said “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them”.
TIA: What’s the relevance of thought leadership from young people on the continent given the leadership is ‘not young’?
GC: The most important aspect to consider is the constituents, although currently most leaders are not young, the majority of the population is young. Hence peer to peer communication through articles our community members publish is important, as it allows young people to critically look at issues affecting them and to share ideas on how best these may be addressed, as well as showcase in certain instances what has worked in other parts of the continent and how it may be adapted specifically for certain countries. Internet access together with social media, have given us a platform to share such ideas with the hope of positively influencing and encouraging one another.
TIA: What has been the impact of this community so far? Is the present African leadership engaging with it?
GC: We are less than a year old and I’d say we are still a startup community, but we have had the great fortune in our short period of existence to engage with key stakeholders not just in Africa but internationally as well, through invites to speak at various platforms where important discussions are taking place about the future of young people and the continent, some of which include Young African Think’rs convention which took place at the African Union in Ethiopia and a Wilton Park meeting on Boosting youth un-employment in Sub-Saharan Africa which took place in South Africa.
TIA: Young people are annihilated from the corridors of power across the continent. What do you suppose is the reason?
GC: This was once the case, but I believe that this is slowly beginning to change, take for example the trio of the young ministers who have recently been appointed into office – Kirsty Coventry (35) who is the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation in Zimbabwe; Botswana’s Bogolo Kenewendo (31) who serves as the Minister of Investment Trade and Industry, and lastly Mali’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kamisa Camara (35). Rwanda is also a classic example of leadership that is empowering young leaders by entrusting them with key portfolios and responsibilities as witnessed by the appointments in various government departments and ministries. We are not there yet, but the positive steps being taken should be applauded, especially considering our patriarchal history as a continent.
TIA: Let’s talk about conferences and forums- buzz words where in the midst we find ‘youth’. Are we getting anything tangible out of these spaces? Is it not the older ‘moneyed’ leaders’ way of silencing young voices?
GC: I believe a lot can be drawn from these gatherings, they provide spaces to share, learn, debate and showcase the progress and potential that exists in Africa. We are a community and as such, we should meet regularly to take stock and agree on a mutually beneficial direction to take for the betterment of the continent. Of equal importance is an individual’s intention when attending these forums, it is important to be clear what your expectations are and the relevance it has to you before attending something, or else you could find it to be non-beneficial without a single value add.
TIA: You also seem passionate about empowering women, why does this matter to you and what have been your experiences on the continent?
GC: Women empowerment is an imperative, because women constitute half of humanity therefore meaning they are equal to men. It is important as a man that I serve as an agent of change, whose role is to help guarantee women’s equality by helping to change adverse norms and perceptions. Patriarchal societies have dominated African societies for a long time and it is my hope that this begins to change. I am privileged to work with a great team of people over at Women’s Economic Imperative, which is led by Margo Thomas, who is working to address some of these challenges.
TIA: What does the future look like?
GC: The future looks very much African, and as a continent we are becoming bolder, more aggressive and increasing in influence, and out of this courage and determination, amazing innovations will be birthed in our continent which will not only positively transform our nations and our peoples livelihoods, but will see a new narrative emerge from within. I am privileged to be a part of a generation that is tasked with the weighty responsibility of building the future of Africa.