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Engineer wants to turn around Zim’s industry fortunes

Washington Fellowship
Chemical engineer and industrialist Tendai Tambudze is playing her part in reviving Zimbabwe’s manufacturing industry.

Chemical engineer and industrialist Tendai Tambudze is playing her part in reviving Zimbabwe’s manufacturing industry.


She has used her education and social skills to turn a family business, which has been operating in Kadoma since 2011, into a regional powerhouse.

“Industry is just starting to pick up after several years of decline, and I want to play my part in re-industrializing and be a part of our country’s success story,” says Tendai, Business Manager at Tambudze Tanning (www.tambudzetanning.com-).

She is among the 30 Zimbabwean youth invited to participate in President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and will spend six weeks taking business and entrepreneurship courses at University of Wisconsin – Stout.

“I realize that this is not just about me learning from American institutions and businesses, but I now have a platform to tell everyone I meet Zimbabwe’s story,” says Tendai.

“With all the positive developments happening in the leather industry, this couldn’t have come at a better time.” The vision for a leather tannery started when Tendai’s dad, businessman Eric Tambudze, purchased industrial land in Kadoma, about 160 kilometers south of the Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. At a time when Zimbabwe was just emerging from a period of economic chaos characterized by hyperinflation and company shutdowns, the task at hand was clear.

Tendai was appointed to achieve strategic and operational goals, and she currently oversees the company’s operations as it scales up to full capacity and expands its presence in the international market.

“In the two years we have been operating, I have managed to establish markets in South Africa and Italy for our locally produced leather,” says Tendai.

Tendai’s vision is to get Zimbabwe back to where many young people desire to see it. “We need to get to a point where retrenchment statistics become old news and we start talking about how the defunct factories all over the country are re-opening,” she Tendai, who also sits on the executive committee for the Leather and Allied Industries Federation of Zimbabwe.

When she returns, she plans to launch an initiative which will target a small group of farmers and their livestock in the Mashonaland West province. “I think it is important for farmers to better understand how their cattle-rearing practices affect our leather production and quality,” she says.

The program, she says, will focus on improving genetics through artificial insemination programs as well as training and awareness campaigns. “I believe I have a big responsibility to ensure our tannery makes a meaningful contribution to the leather industry,” she adds.

She will also want to see more women playing significant roles in industry. “Education and mentorship programs have opened many doors for me. I hope to do the same for other young women,” she declares.

Tendai obtained a BSc degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cape Town in South African in 2008 and completed entrepreneurship training at the Witwatersrand Business School three years later. She then worked at Mintek, a Johannesburg mining firm, where she spent 4 years gaining consulting and project management experience. She then moved back to Zimbabwe in 2012 to manage the tannery.

She corresponds regularly for Sweech, an online business publication, and blogs through http://tendait.wordpress.com/ about her travels and business experiences.

You can follow Tendai on Twitter through the handle @Tendai_t