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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kwamsasa - African Pottery

African pottery varies across the continent but in our opinion some of the best pottery is made in Zimbabwe, Africa.

This African pottery range includes vases, casseroles, tea and coffee sets to dinner sets, cruets, bowls etc and custom orders are also accepted.  KwaMsasa pottery is a wholly owned and proudly Zimbabwean entity which makes the most beautifully crafted pottery.

The business prides itself in its ability to use locally and environmentally friendly materials to make its pottery. It employs ten people mainly from the high density area of Mabvuku. This is one of the poor surburbs of Harare, but the staff are full of enthusiasm and love for their work. As you can see the talent is clearly outstanding.

Kwamsasa Pottery products are inspired by and display Zimbabwean culture, heritage, people, wildlife, landscapes and the various tribes in & around our country e.g. the Tonga weave which represents Northern Zimbabwe's heritage from the Tonga tribe located in Kariba or Mixed Hide which is a mixture of hides from different animals namely the zebra stripes, lion footprint and cheetah spots.

Team At Work!
Contact us if you are interested in learning more about Kwamsasa's African pottery.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Vivi Fashions Believes in Transformation

Empretec Zimbabwe was set up in 1992 as a joint initiative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Zimbabwe as a Non-Profit making organisation. It is part of a worldwide Empretec family of organizations whose mandate is to develop entrepreneurship.

The Empretec concept started in the 1980's in South America where currently there are more than five countries with active programmes. In Africa the programme was first introduced in Nigeria and it has since been established in Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Ghana, Ethiopia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

For a decade Empretec Zimbabwe has spearheaded the growth of a strong entrepreneurial culture in Zimbabwe through training, information dissemination, business advisory services and acting as an agent of change for SME's.

Below is a video illustrating growth and the success of local business Vivi Fashions, a woman owned enterprise supported by Empretec and the local Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Socially Conscious Music - Tracy Chapman

My ipod stopped working about a month ago, so rather than replace it I've taken to watching music videos on Youtube.  As I was browsing, I came across a Tracy Chapman music video and suddenly all my childhood memories from Zimbabwe came flooding back.  It was a great period of my life and even my country's economy was great.  Looking back Tracy Chapman's music had a huge influence on me because her songs raised questions about things I had never considered important at my young age.  She came to Zimbabwe in 1988 with Bruce Springsteen. Everyone was excited about Bruce Springsteen but no one knew who Tracy was.  In fact my parents are the ones who purchased her album which I didn't take to right away.  Little did I know I would play it more than anyone else in the family.  Without Tracy's music, I may never have deveoped an interest in social causes. 

As I listened to all my favorite songs - Sorry, Material World, Fast Car, Freedom Now, SubCity, Behind the Wall and  Why, I thought how amazing and underappreciated she is - she's a True Genius....
Material World, SubCity and Behind the Wall mean so much more now that I live in New York City where life is fast and you feel the need to get away, people are lonely yet surrounded by millions of people, people are starving yet fresh food is being thrown away daily, and yes, there is a city underground (SubCity) - it really exisits right here in the most famous and one of the richest  cities in the world.  Her lyrics are simple but they make you think. Take "Why" for example:

Why do the babies starve when there's enough food to feed the world ?
Why when there're so many of us are there people still alone ?
Why are the missiles called peace keepers when they're aimed to kill ?
Why is a woman still not safe when she's in her home?

Love is hate - War is peace - No is yes - And we're all free  (we really are confused aren't we?)

All logical questions with no valid answers........

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Africa - The Final Frontier

The August issue of Barons online magazine discusses how Africa is the final investment target for the global marketplace:

Sizing Up the Real Risks of Investing in Africa

WHAT IMAGES DOES AFRICA conjure in the mind of the average Westerner? Probably skinny children in dire poverty, corrupt dictators and, thanks to Hollywood, blood diamonds. Africa doesn't get much attention in the West beyond that. During South Africa's successful World Cup this summer, for example, many news reports focused on vuvuzelas and few on the capable management of the event itself.

China Raising the Stakes in Africa: China's trade with sub-Saharan Africa has expanded by a factor of about 10 in the past decade. China is importing mostly commodities and exporting infrastructure and machinery, among other things
.Likewise, the noisy financial crises in the developed financial markets appear to have drowned out a decade of impressive and sustained economic and institutional progress in sub-Saharan Africa. (See table: A Decade of Improvement.) To many Western investors who don't look past the stereotypes, Africa is terra incognita. Their ignorance could cost them plenty in lost opportunity.

Take the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which in a survey last summer revealed that "over all, U.S. businesses do not view Africa as an attractive place to invest. The image of lawlessness, corruption, unstable governments, an inadequate infrastructure, uneducated or untrained people and an unwelcoming government attitude toward business serve as major deterrents."

That depiction is increasingly mistaken.

"Africa suffers from misconceptions more than any other area in the world," argues Miles Morland, whom many consider the father of fund investment in Africa. He founded Blakeney Management in the early 1990s, and now is chairman of Development Partners International, a London-based private-equity firm that invests in Africa.

Perceptions based on the way Africa once was linger in the minds of many investors, he says. The U.S. and U.K. effectively have nationalized more companies during the financial crisis (think GM, Chrysler, AIG, Citigroup, Royal Bank of Scotland, Northern Rock) than African nations have in the past nine years, he quips, and national debts are far less worrisome there than in America or Europe.

"Funnily enough," Morland continues, "people wearied by bankruptcies, meltdowns, restructuring and bank bailouts are amazed to learn about a continent that has transformed itself into one of the fastest- growing regions in the world, where banks haven't needed bailing out, no large companies have folded, with no accounting scandals and where the biggest problem businessmen have is getting capital to finance growth."

He is seconded by another investor with decades of experience, Donald Elefson, portfolio manager of the Harding Loevner Frontier Emerging Markets Fund (ticker: HLFMX). Among frontier regions, Africa is the most interesting, he asserts, because it offers strong markets with huge potential, liberalizing policies, good capital flows and undiscovered high-quality companies. And Nigeria is one of his favorite frontier countries. He contends that the giant nation of about 150 million people eventually can fill the same leading role for Africa that Brazil has played for emerging markets.

Like Brazil, Nigeria hasn't liberalized its petroleum and telecom industries yet, and its stocks in those sectors will benefit whenever that happens. Again like Brazil, Nigeria has grown strongly, even though its banks curbed lending last year. Whenever the banks ratchet up lending, that will further fuel growth. (Nigerian regulators recently forced some banks to take bigger-than-expected write-downs on loan losses. That hurt reported earnings, but has removed a nagging issue and will help future profits.)

Indeed, after a big drop from boom highs in early 2008, African stock markets—despite their problems—now offer the long-term investor a number of fast-growing companies with stocks that sell for about 11 to 12 times trailing 12-month earnings per share as of June 30, according to S&P Indices. They look inexpensive compared with price/earnings ratios in most developed markets or even in the broad world of emerging markets, where the average stock fetches 15 times trailing profits.

With many economies on the continent growing 5% to 8% annually, according to the International Monetary Fund, investors can find banks, brewers, supermarket outfits and mobile-phone companies with good prospects, decent balance sheets and relatively low P/Es (especially compared with their growth potential). Some have few rivals, provide important consumer services and boast profits that are growing faster than their homelands' economy.

IF THE WEST HASN'T NOTICED this big change, China has. With relatively little fanfare, it has made a huge foray into Africa. China's rapidly rising middle class isn't just pulling itself up by the bootstraps, but also is creating demand for resources from Africa. That's helping to raise income levels on the vast continent, as well.

Africa's bounty of natural resources, such as oil, iron ore, gold, copper and numerous others, have brought in strong trade flows from the Asian giant, with $88 billion in 2008 in exports and imports between the two, up 10 times from 2000 (see table, China Raising the Stakes in Africa). In return for those commodities, China is building seaports, power plants, roads and other infrastructure projects, which should help sustain the growth in gross domestic product expected in many parts of the sub-Sahara. Africa's economy is growing at a tiger-like 5% to 8% pace, versus 4% for countries like Russia and Brazil. And the IMF has been nudging up its forecasts for Africa.

There are compelling long-term trends on the continent, says Razia Khan, the London-based head of research on Africa at Standard Chartered, a U.K. bank with businesses in many emerging and frontier markets. Political stability and economic policy has improved. Consumption is rising, with the working-age population expected to hit 65% of the total population in 2050, versus about 50% now. And new capital, some from investment funds, is coming in. Africa's debt and foreign-exchange markets are opening up, too, Khan adds, another encouraging sign. Over all, "Africa is becoming more accessible" to Western investment.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

African Fabrics (Sadza Batik) For Your Wedding, Kwanzaa Decoration etc..

You may be struggling with how to incorporate your western wedding with traditional African fabrics like those sold on Tashanda (Sadza Batik / Kudhinda) . 

One Tashanda customer has kindly shared some photos of how her family used our sadza batik fabrics for her daughter's wedding, which was absolutely beautiful. 

Please note that this was a special order, so you may not see these exact fabrics on our website.  However you are free to contact us for custom orders.
Other customers have used our fabrics for Kwanzaa and their Kwanzaa decorations. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Back to school in Africa!

When you educate a girl in Africa, everything changes...
She’ll be three times less likely to get HIV/AIDS, earn 25 percent more income and have a smaller, healthier family.

Dear Blog Reader,

This September, like pupils in the UK, secondary school girls in Africa are looking forward to going back to school. But unable to afford even $10 of school materials, many will have no choice but to drop out of school. At Camfed, we work to solve this problem by providing girls from poor families with secondary school bursaries, which include books, stationary, uniforms and more.

Cynthia, from the Chikomba district in Zimbabwe, is one such pupil we are working with. Her mother couldn’t afford to pay her school-going costs. Instead of starting secondary school with her peers, Cynthia stayed home. “I was devastated,” she says. “I feared my education was finished, and my dreams were dead.”

But with the generosity of Camfed’s donors, Cynthia’s future changed. “One day, the headmaster told me that Camfed offered bursaries for girls who were struggling financially, and that he had recommended me. He said all of my school costs would be covered until I finished secondary school — fees, uniforms, books, all of it. You can’t imagine the joy and relief I felt! It was incredible.”

Cynthia completed secondary school and is now enrolled in Camfed’s leadership and enterprise programme. “I’m proud of myself,” she says. “My goal of being a successful businesswoman is within my reach!”

In Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Ghana, Camfed is supporting thousands of girls like Cynthia. Will you help one or more girls go to school? Visit to help. Your action will change her life.
Thank you so much,

Ann Cotton

Executive Director

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why Educate an African Girl?

Having been born and raised in Africa there is so much injustice I have witnessed in the lives of girls and women around me.  Culturally, women play a secondary role to men.  As a young girl I quickly became weary and intolerant of the chauvinism around me. 
In the late '90's my cousin's husband passed away leaving behind four small children.  While I was too young to understand, I do recall discussions around my cousin's in-laws kicking her out of her matrimonial home and taking everything they claimed to belong to their late son.  She ended up living with her sister for three years before her case was finally resolved in court.  Her in-laws were awarded one third and she, the remaining two thirds.  My cousin's son, who went to court with his mother for the verdict, told my mother that his grandmother had cried openly in court because she was disappointment by the verdict; and I remember thinking at the time what kind of monster grandparents would put their grandchildren out on the streets just because they despised their mother??

Tashanda likes...
I Have a Story to Tell: Celebrating Ten Years of CAMFED International
This powerful book centers on the theme of the education of girls in Africa, tackling the poverty that excludes them from it, and the opportunities and improvements in health and employment that can be its consequence.

Tashanda LOVES this documentary... A MUST WATCH...

There are many more injustices I could share.  In fact, what I have presented you is just a tip of the iceberg.  I think sometimes it happens so much that it becomes the norm and one fails to see the situation for what it is.  A good friend of mine argues that one of the reasons for the spread of HIV and "small households" (mistresses & their children) is that there are no consequences for the male in the relationship.  In Africa, when a man cheats, their women tend to stay because they are not sufficiently empowered to make it on their own, they don't know their rights, and they fear the stigma of being a divorcee.  In America when a man cheats there are consequences.  You can get a lawyer and sue him, you can leave him, and you can take his money.  This is why it is important to educate an African girl.  If you educate a girl, you feed a nation, but if you educate a man (as is the case generally in Africa and other developing countries) you feed his stomach.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Informal Skills to Earn A Living

Meet an informal vendor who makes nativity sets from the branches of an indigenous tree called Jacaranda.  Sorry the videos are so short, I was running out of space on my camera.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Made in Zimbabwe with Mediocrity?

Interesting blog contribution by a Zimbabwean living in Zimbabwe who is disappointed by the quality of the workmanship at a low income furniture complex in one of Harare's high density suburbs. It gives a glimpse of one aspect of Zimbabwean life. This blog story is taken from Kubatana (note that spellings are UK English).  The book The End of Poverty (on the left) is a fantastic read in our opinon, and our motivation for adding this blog article today:

When a friend suggested that I should go and check out the home furniture industry located in the teeming high density suburb of Glen View 3, approximately eight kilometers out of the city centre, little did I know I was in for a quick lesson on Zimbabwean mediocrity at its most basic level. First things first: I firmly support local entrepreneurship but only if it adheres to high levels of excellence at every step of execution. Suffice to state that my story began after I complained that the prices of furniture in the city centre were simply too exorbitant for the quality of the items on offer.

My friend told me that many of the furniture items being showcased in the city shops were actually originating from Glen View 3. I immediately became curious to check out this goldmine of furniture. So, I jumped on a Kombi (public transport) at Market Square and headed out to Glen View 3 keen to strike a furniture deal that would not damage my pocket yet beautify my apartment.

Because I wasn’t sure about the location of the place, I constantly reminded the Kombi’s conductor that I wanted to drop off at the furniture joint. The complex, he retorted, to my amazement. Complex is actually what the furniture joint is called by the locals, I discovered later. In recent years, the place where the furniture is being made has grown so much to deserve being referred to as a complex.

Granted, it is a home industry which is providing employment for hundreds of people that may otherwise be out of jobs in today’s precarious economic environment. I could only premise that many of the people that are working at the complex could otherwise be criminals or beer drinking and dagga smoking ghetto thugs. So it is great that such an alternative exists.

The first thing that greeted me when I arrived at the so-called complex was dust. There were dirty plastics strewn all over, and particles of dust swirled in the air. Blades of grass and plants were covered in dust. My concern with the dust was quickly swept away when I looked around and saw magnificent furniture items on display on dusty ground.

There were quite a number of stands, each guarded by salespeople who as was to be expected hassled and harassed me to buy some of their wares. The furniture items looked exactly as what I had seen in the furniture shops in the city. In spite of the bits of dust that constantly wafted into my nostrils, I decided to purchase a bed and a set of sofas.

After the transaction, the salesman commandeered me to a workshop area as he ran around to make transport arrangements at my request. And then there it hit me. In front of me, I saw one young man working on the framework of a sofa. He punched nails mercilessly into the wood. I saw him picking rusty nails and just punching them into the wood as if he was demon-possessed or as if the wood had cursed his mother. After a while, he turned to me sweating profusely and requested my opinion on whether the frame of the sofa was proportional. Not quite sure how to respond, I made no comment, and the next thing, I saw him pick up a piece of wood from the ground and attach it to the frame with a bent nail.

After witnessing this ordeal, I left the complex quite disappointed at the level of workmanship. I wasn’t surprised when the bed I bought broke three weeks later. The stuffing in the sofa was so hard and crooked that my wife and me had to furiously apologize to our visitors to take care when sitting on them. Because I had settled for mediocrity I was going to pay for it. And as the saying goes, cheap is indeed expensive. I felt cheated by my support to my own countrymen’s entrepreneurial capabilities that I regretted having gone to the complex in the first place. After much reflection, I realized that while the spirit of Glen View furniture complex is quite entrepreneurial, the problem is that it is tainted with mediocrity.

As I see it, mediocrity is indeed the bane of Zimbabwe’s progress and development. It’s so apparent in everything we do, the idea of cutting corners, so to speak. The end result is always shoddy, not up to standard products. From our music to our politics, mediocrity always rears its ugly head. Unless we shake off this deep seated mediocrity, we will continue to speak big of ourselves and have little to show for it, at least at a global level. Zimbabweans need to commit to high levels of excellence in all spheres of their lives as part of the rebranding process.

Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

July 22, 2010

Mediocrity is definitely an issue when it comes to certain Zimbabwean products, especially those made by the informal sector.  Not sure why this is the case although potentially it could be due to the need to make money as quickly as possible and the failure to look to the future.  The man who purchased the broken bed is hardly going to return to buy another one.  I wonder what it takes to instill excellence as a way of life in a people?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Pram (Stroller) for Paul's Friend - Batsiranai

About 2 years ago I blogged about a ten year old boy named Paul who suffered from cerebral palsy. Paul was the son of one of the mothers of disabled children at Batsiranai who makes a living by making toys sold on the Tashanda website.  I'm sad to say he passed away shortly after visiting him in 2008 but we only found out when we went back to Batsiranai early last year to donate a pram (stroller) we had purchased especially for him. It was terribly depressing and demoralizing to be honest, especially after the excitement of knowing that he would finally be able to replace his hand made (albeit eco-friendly) papier mache chair with a soft well cushioned pram (stroller). It was too little, too late and I felt awful about it for a while.  In fact his passing is why it has taken me so long to post this just hurt too much.  FREE stuff for the coming baby!That day, after pulling myself together, I asked the mothers if any  other disabled child needed a pram (stroller) and they all cried "Tafadzwa !!" at the same time.  Tafadzwa is another little boy who suffers the same illness as Paul and he is the son of one of the women at the cooperative.  They view all the children as their own and it was clear they had been waiting for an opportunity to help Tafadzwa for a very long time.  They sang songs of praise as we unwrapped the pram and placed Tafadzwa in it.  His mother was especially excited because she carries him on her back to and from Dzivarasekwa (high density suburb in Harare) every day for at least an hour each way. 

The picture below shows Tafadzwa (left of picture) in the arms of oneof his carers.  His mother, along with another 25 - 35 mothers of disabled children, makes the products seen on Tashanda (site temporarily disabled) such as African dolls, baby bibs, fridge magnets and more

There was so much joy in the room because of the purchase of this very small gift.  It pains me to see discarded baby products on New York city side walks because I know they are going to a landfill when they could be put to good use where they are genuinly needed.  However I still celebrate moments such as the one I experienced at Batsiranai.  Below Tafadzwa's's new pram (stroller) is being adjusted to make him more comfortable.  The last picture shows Tafadzwa and his mom on their first journey back home in his new pram (stroller)

I am still sad about Paul, but I am also happy to have eased Tafadzwa's suffering. Did I mention he is only ten years old?  Yes, small as he is, he is ten years old!  His pram (stroller) was donated by Tashanda from the sales proceeds of the toys made by the mothers of these disabled children, the women of Batsiranai. 
"It's customers like you that make all this possible, so thanks, thanks very much!"

Bugaboo,Quinny,Britax,Avent, Bob,Inglesina, Maclaren,Mountain Buggy, Baby Jogger, Rock Stary Baby, Radian, stroller, baby gear, car seats

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Zimbabwe's Elderly Population - A BBC Article

Audio Books at

I read an article recently on the BBC website titled "Older Zimbabweans lose life savings", which was about the plight of Zimbabwe’s elderly folks who have been left to fend for themselves during the economic collapse of the country. The photos spoke for themselves and left me completely speechless. I guess I was shocked by the level of poverty and distress that these elderly folks had succumbed to as their children had either died from HIV/AIDS or left the country for greener pastures. The article mentioned how Helpage was helping these folks, but from looking at the pictures it was difficult to determine what, if anything, was being done by Helpage to help these folks.  Something just didn't add up, especially since the article claimed Helpage was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to help Zimbabwe's elderly population.  So I wrote to Kate Holt, the journalist responsible for the story to ask why the article seemed to be promoting good works by Helpage when there was nothing to show for it in the images. As I waited for a response I decided to look for the Helpage Zimbabwe website.  When I found it I noticed that the same BBC photos were there, except this time, there were ADDITIONAL photos showing the same elderly folks standing in a field of healthy looking corn, or sewing industriously at a sewing machine, or sorting their corn in preparation to grind it into cornmeal - positive images. The Helpage photos were far more balanced and fair than the ones on the BBC.

Why is the BBC so biased? Is this what journalism is today? Take a look below at the BBC vs the Helpage photos and pay attention to your emotions as you review each:


As an African I am very disappointed in the BBC's article which is reckless and damaging. I am not against telling the truth but it must be balanced. The BBC images are the ones the world sees, so you can imagine that this is how Africa in general is perceived. The world's reaction is to disinvest in Africa, create an economic crisis, and worsen the plight of these elderly parents and grandparents. Is there such a thing as "socially responsible journalism"? I think there ought to be.


There is another article written by the BBC about how one in four men in South Africa have admitted to raping a woman at least once. We learned only much later that this statistic was taken from a poll of only 1,000 South African men in a country where 50 million people reside.

Isn't this unethical reporting? Is the intent of the BBC article to build or destroy Africa? Does the article create a desire in you as a reader to reach out and help Africa, or turn your backs and shake your heads at the failure of Africa and walk away? I would love to hear people's thoughts.

Healthy Snacks with NutsOnline!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bow Hunting in Southern Africa - A new spin on tourism

An American colleague recently returned from a trip to Southern Africa where he experienced bow hunting for the first time. Apparently South Africa has become a top choice for bow hunters and professional hunters world wide because a) it is a vastly different experience from most parts of the world and b) it is extremely affordable. While hunting is very popular in this region of Africa I had never heard of bow hunting not that I am a fan of hunting at all.
If you are like me, and want to consider alternatives you can visit safaris and game parks for a day or more. These come with spa services, game drives, and other activities. I think people should consider Africa more when they plan their vacations because it it an unforgettable experience. It's unconventional in some ways, but that's what makes it so thrilling.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust

During a recent visit to Zimbabwe we met the Executive Director of the  Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust, Farai Mpfunya. Anyone involved in cultural activities in Zimbabwe, should contact the Fund which was established and registered as a Trust in 2006 to contribute to the growth and development of the culture sector in Zimbabwe. Their support includes financial and technical support to cultural practitioners, institutions and activities. The establishment of the fund came as a result of the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and stakeholders’ desire to address inconsistent funding to the culture sector in Zimbabwe.
The Culture Fund supports the following sub-sectors:
- Film & Audiovisual & Multimedia Production
- Cultural Heritage
- Fine Arts and Crafts
- Cultural Industries
- Literature and Languages
- Performing Arts
For more information on the culture fund, go to
The Culture Fund supports up and coming artisans such as Richard Kaseke, who specializes in papier mache artwork. Richard's goal is to educate and teach through his art, in addition to conserving the environment by using recycled materials for his work. We met Mr Kaseke's wife who manages their craft stall at Harare's Newlands Shopping Center and she expressed gratitude for the exposure recieved through their connection with the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust.
Papier mache is a hugely popular craft because of its low input costs and limitless possibilities for creative design. If you are interested in seeing some of Richard's work, be sure to let us know! Or contact the Culture Fund.