In 2016, Nomqhele was leading a United Nations Democracy Fund supported project aimed at enhancing the appreciation and participation of youth in civic processes. Based on her project experiences and interactions with different Bulawayo community stakeholders, Nomqhele realized a skills-gap within the Local Council Youth Centres. Although, meant to provide safe spaces for youth development programs, the Centres were slowly turning into white elephants with the few activities falling short of equipping the youth with the necessary social and economic skills. Thus, she felt the need to focus on holistic skills development, but was unsure on how to tackle the issue.
Being exposed to the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Regional Leadership Centre, Civic Leadership’s first Online Cohort broadened Nomqhele’s appreciation of the interconnectedness of different issues. Furthermore, the interactive discussion fora were an encouragement and validation that she can work on her idea and develop it into something impactful. Now, the issue was on ideation and strategy. The last Cohort task of developing a Project Proposal propelled Nomqhele to develop her proposal writing and pitching skills. She developed a proposal focusing on; “Enabling youth to champion the socio-economic prosperity of Bulawayo”. Using the lessons acquired from the entire course, her arguments became more coherent and centered on the need to engage the youth in entrepreneurial projects for their holistic development. This focus was a shift from the orthodox foci of several developmental projects that primarily worked on democracy building and civic engagement. Once equipped with entrepreneurial skills for the starting up of social or business enterprises, repackaging of raw talents (as displayed in their youth centers) to enhance attractiveness to the consumers, the youth would meaningfully contribute to Zimbabwe’s socio-economic and political development.
After the course, Nomqhele found her way to the private sector where she worked for the Association for Business in Zimbabwe and expanded her skill-set in business advocacy and lobbying. Combined, Nomqhele’s experiences gave her work a multi-sectoral edge and necessitated her to fine-tune her project proposal culminating in the establishment of Youth Invest (YI). YI is a Trust which works to promote the youth’s sustainable socio-economic development through focusing on the intersection between entrepreneurship and civic engagement.
YI provides a platform for budding and established entrepreneurs to engage financial institutions on the National Financial Inclusion Strategy. The platform also gives budding entrepreneurs relevant information on company registration through facilitating for their engagement with the department of company registration. YI stakeholders also undergo training on developing and proffering business solutions to some community challenges.
YI continues to work to fulfill its objectives of raising the profile of youth initiatives through partnering with local organizations such as She Runs It, a business networking platform for women. YI believes, it is through synergies and such platforms that the youth-led businesses can grow, gain traction and be lead in the transformation and growth of Zimbabwe’s economy.
It is YI’s anticipation that through these platforms, the youth can champion the democratization of economic systems through owning stakes in other key sectors of the economy such as the manufacturing, extractive, production and tertiary sectors.