BY FREEMAN MAKOPA
TWO Zimbabwean entrepreneurs have featured in a collection of videos released by social technology giant, Meta, on Friday in Lusaka, Zambia, as it launched its campaign to promote online business operations.
Maxwell Chimedza and Kerita Tawana Choga, and other entrepreneurs from Zambia and South Africa featured in videos which explored their use of Meta social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meta released a collection of short films aimed at illustrating the innovativeness of southern African entrepreneurs in its campaign, dubbed #Changemakers.
NewsDay reporter Freeman Makopa (ND) caught up with Maxwell Chimedza (MC) to discuss his recent achievements.
ND: Tell us about yourself, age, occupation and how you became a WhatsApp entrepreneur.
MC: I was born 27 years ago in Mutare. I am a self-employed WhatsApp teacher. I started by simply opening two WhatsApp groups in 2019, where I invited as many students as possible to follow my lessons.
Fast forward to 2020 when the COVID-19-induced lockdown was imposed, some parents began to motivate me with some cash as a sign of gratitude since I was teaching students for free.
From thereon, my project began to experience growth.
ND: You were recently featured in a collection of videos released by Meta. What does that mean to you and your business?
MC: Being part of the Meta #Changemakers is a great milestone in my personal life and that of the education sector in Zimbabwe. This absolutely means the growth of my online education business, there is no doubt about that.
ND: What was the feeling like?
MC: The feeling was just electric. I cried with joy. I am still in ecstatic frenzy even up to this point. It’s greatly emotional.
ND: What inspired you to develop the idea?
MC: I was inspired by my aunties who are veteran primary level teachers in their own right. So educating the nation runs in the family.
ND: How have your priorities changed since when you started?
MC: Actually, education has, and will always be my priority.
ND: Now that you have acquired a lot of knowledge, is there anything that you think could have done differently in the beginning?
MC: To be honest, I am a slave to education. I always wanted to be like this from the word go and now my dreams has come to fruition.
ND: What challenges did you overcome at the beginning of your journey?
MC: I experienced data challenges and the fact that I had a phone with 8 gig storage capacity which used to shut down at 70% (laughs). It was just terrible. The phone was a fridge.
ND: What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an entrepreneur?
MC: My advice is one must be steadfast, confident and be proud of his or her line of trade. Be a self-motivator before anyone else. The world must see a lion version of you.
ND: What strategies did you use to market your business?
MC: I used to post some screenshots of the results of my former students right on my status and many people got lured by that and joined the group. That was my initial strategy.
ND: How long did it take you to succeed?
MC: It took me two years since I started in 2019.
ND: COVID-19 wreaked havoc in many businesses; tell us how that has affected you?
MC: To be honest, COVID-19 was a blessing in disguise. Due to the lockdowns, the conventional school system was disturbed and that’s where I grabbed the opportunity to begin online teaching.
ND: What is your vision going forward?
MC: My vision is to fuse WhatsApp education and the conventional way of learning because we don’t even know when we will finally see the back of COVID-19, so we must be fully prepared.
ND: What have been your most significant failures, and what did you learn from them?
MC: Actually I didn’t encounter a big failure, but the fact is that in education there are some operational errors which might occur here and there.
Therefore, the trick is to correct them instantly and surge forward.
As our old Shona adage goes, kudzidza hakuperi, it means that we learn new things with each passing day.
ND: What has been your most significant achievement?
MC: My major achievement is the fact that last year, I taught 64 students on WhatsApp and managed to amass 41 As at
Advanced Level, which is shocking from an unqualified teacher. This has now got me international stardom.
ND: What goals are you working towards achieving?
MC: Growing WhatsApp education despite all the leaps and bounds.
- Follow Freeman on Twitter @freemanmakopa