By Thubelihle Ndlovu

The activities described in this article took place before the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ Temporary Pause of International Exchange Programs Due to COVID-19.

At the 2015 Zimbabwe Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) Banking and Microfinance Summit held in Harare, Zimbabwe, the director of bank supervision at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe stressed the importance of supporting financial inclusion by building financial capacity through financial literacy. In response to this issue, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe crafted a National Financial Inclusion Strategy in order to address barriers to financial inclusion and prioritize and address the needs of underserved special target groups, through the building of robust, inclusive financial infrastructures. It is evident that addressing this gap is a key priority.

In June 2019, I attended Alumni TIES in Accra, Ghana, which focused on “Strengthening Business and Trade for Women Entrepreneurs in Africa.” The strong relationships built during the seminar afforded me a wealth of information, knowledge, and ideas on how to improve business and trade for women entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe through financial inclusion. My participation at the seminar ignited the birth of the “Purse on Point” project, developed with fellow exchange alumni Irene Mirembe from Uganda and Nomuntu Ndhlovu from South Africa.

“Purse on Point” participants engage in a training on financial literacy and entrepreneurship.

The “Purse on Point” project is funded through an Alumni TIES small grant from the U.S. Department of State and bridges the financial exclusion gap for women in Africa by offering 40 women in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe a springboard to escape poverty through financial literacy and entrepreneurship training. This program embarks on creating an environment that welcomes all women entrepreneurs regardless of experience by striving to simplify the often overcomplicated language of the entrepreneurial finance world. The “Purse on Point” methodology is centred on providing relevant and practical financial and entrepreneurship education so that individuals can identify and use appropriate financial products and services to build and preserve their assets over time. Through a combination of trainings on topics such as social entrepreneurship and business model canvassing, “Purse on Point” is promoting financial freedom and responsibility as well as fostering economic participation. In order to expand our reach even further, we have created online modules and courses that are available and shareable via social media platforms such as WhatsApp to cultivate a greater impact for this entrepreneurial community.

Furthermore, the program also fosters social entrepreneurship, as well as “servant leadership” as a leadership philosophy to develop socially responsible entrepreneurs. As we complete our final phases of the project, we hope that the women we trained will become socially responsible entrepreneurs, who are better informed, better educated, and more confident. These women will be empowered to take greater responsibility for their financial affairs and impart that skill to others to play a more active role in the future economy of Zimbabwe.

Project leader Thubelihle Ndlovu poses with a “Purse on Point” participant.

Purse on Point is funded through an Alumni TIES small grant from the U.S. Department of State.

Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminars (Alumni TIES) are regionally focused seminars for alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs.