People-to-People Exchanges Build Network between U.S. and Zimbabwe Entrepreneurs

Mentors from a program that brought Zimbabwe and Zambia entrepreneurs to the U.S. in 2014 travel to Africa for a reverse exchange.


Budding entrepreneurs are often looking for new tools and resources to make their businesses a success, but the best tool may be standing right in front of them.

That’s what a group of U.S. entrepreneurs experienced when they travelled to Zimbabwe and Zambia to meet their counterparts. People are the best tool available.
These American entrepreneurs originally met their Zimbabwe and Zambian counterparts on an U.S. Department of State Professional Fellows international exchange program in 2014. 24 business leaders from these African countries spent five weeks in the United States to strengthen their understanding of American business practices, entrepreneurship, culture, and values. Through this fellowship, they expanded their networks and professional skills and returned home to apply them to their work.
Last month, those networks returned to the fellows, when the State Department and Meridian International Center  eight of those American entrepreneurs to Africa for a reverse exchange and entrepreneurship training program.
On February 17, Hypercube Hub hosted an entrepreneurship day to share best practices a in Harare, Zimbabwe. Hypercube Hub is a space for entrepreneurs, innovators and digital startups. The goal for the event was to “give Zimbabwean entrepreneurs an opportunity to interact, learn and engage with these U.S. leading entrepreneurs,” said Hypercube.

One session used virtual exchange to discuss ideas and best practices regardless of location. An American entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Brad Feld, from Foundry Group in Boulder, Colorado, joined the event via Skype to talk about finding investors for your company.

The day was filled with insights, captured with the #263chat and #ZimZam2015 hashtags:

Earlier in the week, the entrepreneurs had a chance to visit the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, where they even had a chance to ring the opening bell. The visitors also met with Chengetedzai Depository Company, which built a new platform for clearing stock trades electronically. One of the visiting entrepreneurs Dan Roselli, Co-Founder of Packard Place, observed how companies trading can be suspended due to irregularities in financial reporting. “You might think this is a bad thing,” he said, in response to these kinds of suspensions, “but it is more good than bad. It demonstrates a whole new era of financial discipline and transparency for Zimbabwe financial markets.”

Of course,  it wouldn’t be an international exchange program if it didn’t remind us of who small of a world we live in. During an interview with Zimbabwe National Radio, the host looked at Roselli and said, on air, “We’ve met before, do you remember where?” Turns out that the host, Zororo Makamba, and Roselli are both alumni of the Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity at Michigan State University. Makamba saw Roselli speak at an event in 2010. “I won a bet with another Professional Fellow that I would find a Michigan State Alumni on the trip before he would find a Notre Dame Alumni,” said Roselli. Looks like he won that bet.
To learn more about this journey, check out #ZimZam2015.
Listen to Rinesh Desai, one of the fellows, discuss the entrepreneurship day in an interview with Voice of America.