Zimbabwe has an artisan shortage, here is how to fix it

ACCORDING to Zimstat, Zimbabwe had 93 714 university students as at August 2017, but only 25 952 polytechnic students. Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city, has six universities, but only one polytechnic.

Zimbabwe’s national policy, it seems, is focusing only on producing managers, without the workforce required to do the practical work.

There is now a need to re-look at the national policy, so that it focuses on introducing more vocational institutions. To kick-start Zimbabwe’s economy, we now need to fully introduce apprentices and artisan programmes.
This strategy was used by former Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Douglas Smith to build Rhodesia during the white regime’s rule. National Railways of Zimbabwe, Air Zimbabwe, Hwange, Ziscosteel and Shabanie Mashaba Mines are all products of apprenticeship and artisanship programmes. Today, these institutions are battling to survive because Zimbabwe did not continue producing the workforce they needed to keep up with the exodus of skills to regional and international markets.

The Rhodesian government’s national policy was focused on producing a practical workforce that would start as apprentices and graduate into artisans.

An artisan is a worker in a skilled trade that involves making things by hand. Bricklayers, builders, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, welders, fitters, turners, millwrights, sheet-metal workers, boilermakers, mechatronics, mechanics, toolmakers, patternmakers, joiners, shutterhands, steel fixers, glaziers, plasterers, tilers, sound technicians and Instrumentation and electronic technicians, just to name a few, are all classified as artisans.
It is government policy to focus on producing a lot of graduates. Our artisans, meanwhile, are ageing and younger people are not exposed to the opportunities that are presented by Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef). Zimdef’s role is to finance the development of critical and highly skilled manpower through a 1% training levy paid by registered companies in Zimbabwe. This is not being fully exploited.

With the projected growth in the number of universities, there is fear and concern that, in the next two decades, artisanship might disappear almost completely from the development landscape of Zimbabwe.

A bad omen for Zimbabwe’s future

While unemployment is a major concern in Zimbabwe, the lack of skilled artisans is a major barrier to job creation and economic growth. Artisans play a huge and important role in the economic growth of Zimbabwe, and if we had more skilled artisans, it would also help our industries who are now often forced to look outside the country to find the right skills set due to declining numbers in the country.

There is also a theory that artisans are key because they all end up being entrepreneurs, which is the prime cause of economic development, and which is critical now. The rapid disappearance of technical labour skills and services is a bad omen for Zimbabwe’s future development, since master artisans are now entrepreneurs. Yet, our government and industrialists appear oblivious to this serious problem. There is no concerted and concentrated research and policy regarding this ominous development taking place in our country.

There is now an urgent need to quickly increase the numbers of artisans by increasing the number of vocational institutions. We also need to improve the quality of artisan training, which is a key driver of both economic growth and employment opportunities in Zimbabwe. With the current economic challenges, the demand for new artisans has become more limited to mining and manufacturing.

However, with the push by the “Second Republic” for economic growth, hopefully this situation will change as economic conditions improve. It is essential for Zimbabwe to maintain and increase the number of its qualified artisans in the long term.

 This article was first published by newZWire.

 Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi is chairman of the ICT divison of the Zimbabwe Institution Engineers. He is also a member of the Engineering Council of Zimbabwe, the Institution of Engineering and Technology. He writes here in his personal capacity.

3 Comments

  1. One of the major grave policy direction mistake partook by our esteemed liberators. Smith had one academic university where only cream-dela-cream were enrolled while all B+ were shunted to vocational schools. Zanupf regime in 1980 viewed the position as discriminatory turned all vocational and technical colleges into academic universities pursuing their ill-advised populist policies now even with a mere 3-points at A’ level one can be admitted into university, no wonder we have so many graduates who are un-employable can read but not comprehend ie a lot of cabinet ministers.

  2. never mind the creme de la creme the article makes sense a country is like a business it must make it’s own money through exports and self sufficiency in manufacturing and agriculture etc.

  3. Some of these articles i think they require a lot of research for them to be meaningful. In terms of artisans i would like to say the number which the country is producing right now is an ideal number of artisans considering the requirements of our industry. The missing link is all about managing these artisans,how are thes artisans being treated in Zimbabwe they are being viewed like useless people in Zimbabwe but these are the people at the centre of production in industries. Most artisans have gone out of the nation or changed their trades because of how they are being treated. The fact that these guys are no where near the finances of the organisation very few organisations value their welfare. We can train so many of them ,but if we ignore their welfare they will always seek for greener pastures. How big has our industry turn up to be now that we are now running short of artisans when the few colleges which were there were producing enough in the past when our industry was booming in the past. Let us address the key issues or else we will end up being the training ground of other nations who values our artisans.

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