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Women’s entrepreneurship and ICTs

19 November 2012

Minenhle Ngwenya

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In Zimbabwe, women entrepreneurs have benefited from improved access to mobile communication technology, writes Minenhle Ngwenya.

With about three quarters of a million inhabitants, Bulawayo is the second city of Zimbabwe, located 439 kilometres southwest of the capital Harare. Agriculture is an important additional source of income for the poor residents in the outskirts of the city, especially for the women who mostly run urban agricultural businesses.

In 2009 SNV, Netherlands Development Organisation, started a DFID-funded programme in partnership with World Vision and in cooperation with the farmer–producer association PMRG for the implementation of a poultry, mushroom and rabbitry commercial production and marketing venture in the suburbs of Bulawayo. This programme coincided with a period of comparative political stability in Zimbabwe, which brought prospects for improved economic performance.

ICTs are playing an increasingly important role in this urban agricultural programme because they help to link the production end of the value chain to the markets. The ICT context prior to 2009 can be characterised as poor, with low outreach. However, significant improvements since 2009 have given farmers better opportunities.

In Zimbabwe, national mobile phone signal coverage in 2009 was just 37%; in 2012 it is 93%. The average cost per minute was US$0.27; in 2012 it is US$0.09 per minute. The minimum cost of a cell phone dropped from US$250 to US$15, while a SIM card cost US$200 in 2009, as opposed to US$2 in 2012.
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