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MUREHWA: Inside a sparsely furnished two-room home in rural Zimbabwe, a 3-month-old baby cries.
His mother, Virginia Mavhunga, spends her days making trips to the well with a bucket on her head, selling fruits and vegetables at the roadside, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes – she has too much on her hands to offer her child, Tawananyasha, much comfort.
“That’s my life now, every day,” the new mother said.
Between the chores of her strict routine, Virginia prepares her four younger siblings for school and helps them with homework when they return. It’s these tasks that hit Virginia the hardest – because, at age 13, she, too, would rather be in school.
Virginia is part of a steep increase in pregnancies among girls and teenagers reported in Zimbabwe and other southern African countries during the pandemic.
Zimbabwe has long struggled with such pregnancies and child marriages. Before Covid-19 hit, one of every three girls in the country was wed before age 18, many with unplanned pregnancies, because of lax enforcement of laws, widespread poverty, and cultural and religious practices.
The spread of coronavirus intensified the situation. The country of 15 million people imposed a strict lockdown in March 2020, closing schools for six months and reopening them only intermittently. Girls in particular were left idle and shut out from access to contraceptives and clinics; the troubles of impoverished families worsened.
Many girls became victims of sexual abuse or looked to marriage and pregnancy as a way out of poverty, advocates and officials said. Before the pandemic, many such girls were “relegated as a lost cause,” said Taungana Ndoro, an education official in Zimbabwe.
But faced with the rising numbers, the government in August 2020 changed a law that had long banned pregnant students from schools.
Activists and authorities hailed the move as a significant step in the developing nation, but so far the new policy has largely failed.
Most girls haven’t returned to school, with authorities and families citing economic hardship, deep-seated cultural norms, and stigma and bullying in class.
Virginia tried to return to school while pregnant under the policy change. Officials encouraged her and her parents. But she was the butt of jokes and the subject of gossip in a community not accustomed to seeing a pregnant girl in a school uniform.
“People would laugh at me. Some would point and ask in ridicule; ‘What’s up with that belly?’” she said, looking at a photo of herself in the purple uniform. She has since sold it for $2 to pay for the baby’s clothing and other needs.
Virginia said she had hoped the older man who impregnated her would marry her. Despite initial promises, he ultimately denied paternity, she said. She and her family didn’t follow through on a statutory rape case with police, despite Zimbabwean law putting the age of consent at 16.
Under the law, people convicted of sexual intercourse or “an indecent act” with anyone younger than 16 can get a fine or up to 10 years in jail. But most incidents never get that far.
Families and officials have long tried “to sweep the cases under the carpet or … force marriages on the minor,” police spokesman Paul Nyathi said.
Families often try to negotiate with the offender, pressuring him to marry the girl and give her family cattle or money, Nyathi said. Then they agree to not report the case to police – ultimately “assisting in the abuse of the girl,” he said.
Police said they couldn’t provide data related to prosecuted or reported cases. Nyathi said a tally would be ready by the end of January – but any figures are likely an undercount.
Zimbabwe does have figures on pregnancies in girls who drop out of school – and while they show an alarming increase, officials say they, too, likely reflect an undercount, as many girls simply leave without giving a reason.
In 2018, about 3,000 girls dropped out of school nationwide because of pregnancies.
In 2019, that number remained relatively steady. In 2020, the number rose: 4,770 pregnant students left school.
And in 2021, it skyrocketed: About 5,000 students got pregnant in just the first two months of the year, according to women’s affairs minister Sithembiso Nyoni.
Across Africa, Zimbabwe isn’t alone: During the pandemic, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Malawi, Madagascar, South Africa and Zambia “all recorded a steep rise in cases of sexual and gender-based violence, which has contributed to a reported increase in pregnancies among young and adolescent girls,” according to an Amnesty International report.
The continent has one of the highest pregnancy rates among adolescents in the world, according to the United Nations, and Zimbabwe and a handful of other nations now have laws or policies to protect girls’ education while pregnant.
Zimbabwe’s change in law gave community workers an opportunity to encourage girls to return to school. Through a group that promotes girls’ rights, Tsitsi Chitongo held community meetings and knocked on doors to speak with families in remote, rural areas.
But the lack of enthusiasm from families jolted her. By November, her group had persuaded only one child to return to school in Murehwa – a poor rural township of mostly small farmers dealing with the fallout of drought, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the capital, Harare.
That girl lasted only a week in school, Chitongo said. She sees resistance from parents, community leaders and teachers – in addition to the girls themselves.
“Most parents are still steeped in the old way of doing things,” she said. “They prefer to have the child married, even if she is under the age of 18. They tell us, ‘I am already struggling to take care of my family; I can’t afford an extra mouth when the girl gives birth.’ So children are being chased away from home.”
Some schools also discourage girls from returning, despite the recent change, Chitongo said.
“Sometimes headmasters tell us that they don’t quite understand how the policy works and they refuse to admit the children,” she said. “They complain that pregnant girls are not focused. Some simply tell us that the school is full.”
Often girls are unaware they have a right to remain in school. They’re then forced to find work, frequently as housemaids, to support their children, Chitongo said. Or they go to the men who impregnated them.
For 16-year-old Tanaka Rwizi, the backyard of a clinic run by Doctors Without Borders in the poverty-stricken Mbare township has taken the place of school. There, a club for teenage mothers provides crash courses on life skills and ways they can make a living, such as giving manicures and making soap for sale.
Tanaka dropped out of her school after becoming pregnant early last year. She lives with her unemployed uncle in a single room divided by a curtain. Every Thursday, she gathers with other girls for the clinic’s program.
It began in 2019 for a handful of participants, but demand grew during the pandemic, said Grace Mavhezha, of Doctors Without Borders. More than 300 girls have come to the program since Covid-19 hit.
Most of the girls opt for the program over formal school because they need a skill that can help them “quickly make some money,” Mavhezha said. “There is a lot of poverty; they need to fend for their children.”
Many also set their sights on marriage to survive. Tanaka said the 20-year old man who impregnated her promised to marry her as soon as she turns 18 – the youngest allowed in Zimbabwean law.
“I can’t wait that long,” Tanaka said. She planned to go to him immediately after giving birth.
The clinic also offers contraceptives. But travel restrictions shut out many young people from such facilities, cutting off access to not only contraceptives but to counseling.
Clinic workers say many young people need such services because of conservative parents who equate contraceptives with prostitution. Proposals to supply contraceptives in school have been met with outrage in this conservative and deeply religious country.
“Girls are banned from taking contraceptives due to traditional myths that our parents have, that girls cannot have sex until they are in their 20s or married,” said Yvette Kanenungo, a 20-year old clinic volunteer. “The truth is that the girls are already having sex, but cannot freely take contraceptives because of the no-sex-before-marriage decree at home.”
For Virginia, the travel restrictions meant she was stuck at home in Murehwa after visiting her parents from her city school last year. She enrolled instead at a local school, but spent little time there because of intermittent closures.
At first, Virginia’s parents – who try to support the family by sorting market items for sale and getting their drought-damaged land ready for growing again – wanted to pursue a statutory rape case against the older man who impregnated her. But they gave up when he was released on bail and said they now hope he’ll take care of the baby.
Virginia’s father ignored advice from neighbors to make his daughter leave home. Her mother wanted to protect her, and that included keeping her out of school and away from harassment.
Virginia vows to return to school someday, though. She misses her classes, her peers. She wants to graduate and be accepted to a university, so she can get a degree and repay her parents’ faith in her by building them a bigger home.
“I would rather return to school than get married,” she said. “I am not afraid of going back to school once my child is older. They may laugh at me now, but I am dedicating all my spare time and weekends to reading and catching up.
“This is not the end of the road, just a forced break.”
Retail participation on ZSE rising – The Zimbabwe Mail
Experts in the capital markets are projecting further growth in retail investor participation on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) in 2022 on enhanced access to trading at a time foreign participation has been on a decline.
While foreign participation slowed in the past year, the introduction of easy-to-access platforms for trading has increased participation by retail investors, a trend that stockbrokers EFE Securities see continuing.
In 2021, foreign participation remained sluggish with disposals accounting for 19 percent of the total turnover while purchases claimed a mere 4 percent of the same as foreigners continued to shy away from the Zimbabwean stock market due to delays in movement of international payments.
However, local investors spurred activity both on the buy and sell-side as they piled stocks to hedge against economic volatility, subsequently accounting for 81 percent and 96 percent of the sell and buy-side respectively.
Platforms such as ZSE Direct and C-Trade, have allowed ease of buying and selling of shares by retail investors.
During the first half of the year 2021, the C-Trade platform also spurred trades by retail investors although the values still remained low. With more liquidity coming from the anticipated economic growth spurred by agriculture and mining, more retail investors are expected to turn to stocks as a viable investment option.
On ZSE Direct (an online trading platform run by the ZSE) the growth in retail investor participation on the stock market has been phenomenal. The platform, which was launched in September 2021 and closed the same year with 3 149 total users, has since grown to 9 121 total users.
Active users at 939 for the four months to December 2020, closed 2021 much higher at 4 737 reflecting the growing interest from retail investors. The growth in active users was also reflected in the growth in the number of trades from 1 766 for the four months to December 2020 to 31,142 for the year to December 2021.
The total value of trades, which was at $14,3 million in the four months to December 2020, ballooned to $248,4 million in the 12 months to December 2021. The introduction of easy-to-use trading tech platforms such as ZSE Direct and C-Trade has also added to the attractiveness of equities as an asset class.
On C-Trade the total number of registrants or first-time investors shows a significant uptake comparable to the approximately 7 500 active investors accrued since dollarisation.
Such an exponential increase signals a market poised for growth as happened last year when the number of participants on C-Trade grew by 60 percent from the previous year. C-Trade has approximately 26 000 users currently.
“In the ensuing year we expect more activity in the market mainly coming from retail investors, due to availability and accessibility of trading platforms and new listings,” said EFE Securities in their FY2021 Review and 2022 Outlook. In the prior year, retail investor activity improved, therefore, bringing more liquidity in the market. Foreign outflows continued to outstrip inflows on the market, therefore depressing prices as locals failed to cope with the supply. However, with a better foreign currency allocation system we expect a turnaround in this space with more foreigners gaining confidence to buy in the local market,” said the stockbrokers.
While most counters were affected by Covid-19 due to lockdowns, it is the hospitality industry that suffered the most as travel restrictions were imposed, while clothing retailers also lost weeks of trading during the first quarter of the year. However, the blue-chip counters have continued to be the markets’ favourites as they provide a good hedge against currency depreciation.
“The heavy cap counters that offer diversified goods like consumer staples are well-positioned for growth in the Covid-19 era, for example, National Foods is poised for growth as it offers commodities with inelastic demand.
“Econet continues to grow as most personnel have adapted to work from their home and schools also now offer lessons online,” said EFE Securities.
According to the stockbrokers, the market’s momentum stocks Meikles, Delta, Econet, CBZ and Innscor proved their mettle as they emerged the most liquid stocks on the bourse accounting for a combined 55 percent of the annual market spend.
Meikles, Delta, and Econet were the standout performers for the year with respective contributions of 20 percent, 12 percent and 9 percent as investors continued to cherry-pick in the heavies. starafrica, Dawn, and RTG drove the market’s volumes performance with a contribution to total volumes of 37 percent, 29 percent, and 8 percent in that order on the back of corporate transactions that saw major shareholding structural changes in the three companies. Overall, market cap closed the year at $1,32 trillion with telecoms giant Econet being the biggest counter by total value accounting for 17 percent of total market value by the close of 2021.
Fifty-one counters closed the year in the positive, led by logistics group Unifreight which surged 16 011 percent to close at $29,96. CBZ was the only counter to close the year in the negative with an 11 percent decline to $75,16. The banking group once reached a high of $123,61 during the year. – Sunday Mail
Presidential garden flourishes in Mat South village – Chronicle
Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
FOR the first time in their lives, villagers in Jinjika village in Mangwe District, Matabeleland South, have opened bank accounts to receive payments for their efforts at Sekusile-Makorokoro Nutrition Garden, a project falling under the Presidential Rural Development Scheme.
On December 15 last year, President Mnangagwa launched the Presidential Rural Development Scheme in the remote Jinjika village which is tucked deep in semi-arid Matabeleland South.
Government intends to replicate the same programme across 35 000 villages countrywide.
The programme entails communities using resources within their villages to uplift themselves and Arda and Agritex are the agronomists for the projects.
The programme is part of Government’s efforts to improve rural economies and end poverty among the rural folk in line with the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).
During the launch the President sold the first bundle of spinach produced at the Sekusile-Makorokoro Nutrition Garden to off-takers for US$1.
The Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) has already started establishing offtake agreements with buyers of fresh produce from the garden, which was established two months ago.
With 163 beneficiaries, Sekusile-Makorokoro Nutrition Garden has already started generating money in its first eight weeks of establishment.
Arda said the scheme will generate at least US$163 000 every year.
In interviews with Chronicle yesterday, villagers said the horticulture project has become transformational to their lives.
The villagers in Jinjika said they have opened bank accounts to get paid for the work they do at the Presidential Horticulture Scheme garden in the Makorokoro area.
So far, they received payments for rape and spinach they planted in December and have started harvesting tomatoes and about 4 000 cabbages will be ready in mid-February.
The garden is being managed by Mr Mlungisi Ncube with Agriculture extension officers providing consultancy work so that crops do not fail.
Mr Ncube yesterday took Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka through a tour of the garden narrating their successes as well as challenges.
A villager engaged in the scheme, Ms Linda Moyo said after receiving her payment last month, she was able to buy groceries for her family.
“I managed to buy items including rice, sugar, soap among other things.
We have been able to relieve pressure from our husbands who are working outside the country.
As a woman, I’m now able to enter a bank and make a withdrawal and this is through the payments I get from working here.
We are looking forward to improved profits when we scale up productivity,” said Ms Moyo.
A local village head Mr Morgen Ndebele expressed gratitude to Government for extending the project to their community.
He said the project will help in ensuring that locals don’t skip the country’s borders as payments that villagers are receiving are transforming lives.
“We believe this will contribute to more of our children not leaving the country to seek greener pastures in other countries.
Villagers now balance between working in their fields and also working here where they get paid. We believe this project will uplift our community,” said Mr Ndebele.
In his speech, Dr Masuka, said it was important that he follows up on the programme that President Mnangagwa launched in December so that glitches are reduced in spreading the programme countrywide.
“We visited here to see progress with the project. I’m extremely pleased with what we have seen so far.
All the 163 villagers are working here and have been paid and they have started generated more than $100 000 in their first month.
Certainly, this project is on course to achieving targets and they have even started selling the cabbages, they have an incredible crop of tomatoes, rape and spinach.
They are now going into the second rotation and we can only expect that production will get better,” said Dr Masuka.
He said the project has great potential and Government will chip in to ensure communities access viable markets.
“We still have to finetune the marketing side because the markets are far. And with the increase in product from other villages that are going to be starting this project, I think we have started on the right path,” he said.
He said institutions such as the Zimbabwe National Water Authority, Zimtrade, Agriculture Marketing Association and Agriculture and Rural Development Authority are expected to work closely with rural communities in amplifying the transformation agenda.
Dr Masuka said rural industrialisation is the best foot forward if the country is to achieve an upper middle-income status by 2030.
He said the Presidential Horticulture Scheme will create employment for communities.
“Opportunities lie where we are; beneath our feet and here in Jinjika Village we have demonstrated that it is indeed possible for villagers not to go anywhere else to be employed.
They get money every month as employees and at the end of the selling season they become shareholders in the shares.
So, this is an incredible developmental pathway for the attainment of Vision 2030,” he said.
“For these projects to succeed, it is agricultural development that will power rural industrialisation.
And that rural industrialisation will cause rural development and facilitate for the attainment of Vision 2030.
That’s the continuum that we must appreciate, but where it is theoretical a lot of people get lost.
But when the perspective is grounded like this, everyone can see that this is the evidence that we have been building all along.
That it is possible for Zimbabweans to develop where they are because the enabler for development is the land.”
Dr Masuka said the project being implemented at Jinjika will be replicated across the country making Zimbabwe a stronghold in horticulture exports in Africa.
“The President’s vision is that there be 35 000 village models like this so we have the incredible opportunity to become one of the biggest horticulture exporting nations in Africa.
So, this provides diets and nutrition and this is where we are going.
If you complement this with Pfumvudza/Intwasa that provides the cereals, and this provides the relish then this is the greatest combination for rural development and food and nutrition security,” said Dr Masuka.
Mangwe district development coordinator Ms Rorisang Makhurane said chiefs in the district have endorsed the programme and are in the process of identifying land in other villages where the same programme can be implemented.
“You know this part of the country has almost been forgotten, even the network is very poor.
Somehow, they did not have a lot of participation in national programmes, but this project I see it coming up very positively and everyone is now understanding where Zimbabwe is going.
This is the way to go; the villagers are being paid for the work they are doing and they now realise what business is.
What we have even heard from the grapevine is that the traditional leadership in this area want this expanded.
I even had consultations from chiefs who want this model to be spread across the district.
“As you are aware the President has said this should be replicated in the 35 000 villages in the country, chiefs are busy trying to identify land to expand this programme,” she said. — @nqotshili
African stock outlook for 2022 – a trader's opinion – The Zimbabwe Mail
Investing in Africa differs significantly depending on the region. In terms of oil assets and key industries, Northern Africa is very similar to much of the Middle East in terms of size and scope.
The country of South Africa is considered to be a more developed market because of its robust mining industry.
Sub-Saharan Africa is still considered to be a closed market by foreign financiers. It comprises countries with less developed economies.
However, according to AskTraders.com, as markets in other parts of the world begin to mature, Africa as a region is viewed by many investors as an excellent frontier upon which to discover lucrative growth stocks.
In 2022, as global economies still stutter out of the effects of the global pandemic, there are some compelling prospects for African stocks going forward.
Commodities investments continue to be a strong prospect for traders
These countries are endowed with an abundance of natural resources, which range from oil and diamonds to gold and uranium. Many of them remain unexplored as a result of a low human population density, as well as a lack of infrastructure and financial resources.
This creates a strong environment for growth stocks to become more prominent in 2022, as international mining companies begin to prospect throughout the African continent.
Africa is experiencing a bevy of new stock exchanges
Many African countries are enacting legislation that will make their stock exchanges more transparent and more diverse in terms of the securities that are traded on the exchange.
Added to this, many emerging stock exchanges in Africa are embracing financial technology businesses and collaborating with start-ups in order to automate their trading platforms and reduce the regulatory burden placed on publicly traded corporations, among other things.
New stock exchanges are also being established, with Lesotho set to become the first African country to list on a stock exchange.
Ethiopia’s parliament has also given its approval to a proclamation that will pave the way for the establishment of a stock market.
Many African countries are enjoying a growing consumer sector
As of 2021, the population of Africa will account for around 17 percent of the world’s total, with roughly 1.4 billion people residing in more than 60 countries.
As a result, consumer services such as telecommunications and banking gain a significant amount of market share.
The rising consumer economies of Africa provide intriguing potential for global enterprises looking to expand their operations in retail and distribution.
Changing demographics and better business environments across the continent are only two of the causes that will contribute to increased household consumption, which is expected to reach $2.5 trillion by 2030, according to projections.
Seven countries—Nigeria, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa—will soon account for half of the continent’s population, and 43 percent of Africans across the continent will belong to the middle or upper classes, according to the United Nations Development Programme.
The rising income levels across all socioeconomic classes, as well as the growing demand for goods and services, should inspire firms to consider expanding their operations to the continent.
Investment, production, and distribution options abound throughout Africa, making it a lucrative place to do business and to invest.
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