Generation Unlimited Youth Challenge 2018/19 winners drive solutions to Zimbabwe’s textbook problems
Using technology, Team Amigo seeks to ensure access to textbooks and other learning materials for disadvantaged children.
Harare, Zimbabwe - In a country where the average textbook- pupil ratio stands at 1:8 at O’level, four 23-year-olds balanced between gruelling final year university studies and launching a technology start-up that could solve Zimbabwe’s challenge of textbook scarcity and unaffordability. Team Amigo, as Simbarashe Duane Andre, Blessing-Mau Maunze, Brighton Mahatchi and Farayi Goronga, call themselves, entered the Generation Unlimited Youth Challenge with the assistance of UNICEF Zimbabwe partner, BOOST. They emerged as one of the 5 global winners who received $20,000 each in April 2019 from Generation Unlimited for developing an application that delivers learning materials to students at low cost.
Team Amigo Chief Marketing Officer Farayi Goronga talks about their journey:
Who is Team Amigo?
Farayi Goronga: We are a circle of friends. I was in the same electrical engineering class with Simbarashe and Brighton. Blessing was a law student who went to high school with Simbarashe. So we ended up creating one circle of friends with one goal in mind - to solve the challenges facing students in accessing educational materials.
How did working as friends help?
Farayi Goronga: Very few people would go for 6 or 12 months working on something that is not providing income. But being friends, every time we thought of giving up, we just told ourselves ‘let’s be patient, one day this will pay off.’
Where were the thoughts of giving up coming from?
Farayi Goronga: We were final year students. We needed to prepare for exams, to prepare dissertations and at the same time work on this project, which is bigger than the degree. It was tough trying to balance these things.
How did you manage to balance school and the project?
Farayi Goronga: We branched out tasks based on our passions. I focus on marketing because even though I am studying engineering I have a passion for marketing. Simbarashe and Brighton do the app development, the coding and the website. Blessing developed himself in legal matters.
What has been the progress so far?
Farayi Goronga: We are now a formally registered company after registering in May 2019 and we are beefing up our hardware and software. Our portal has more than 13,000 users, registering up to 3 million hits a day. Users have access to over 2, 3 million textbooks, over 150,000 past exam papers as well as journals and video and audio tutorials. We have introduced a WhatsApp platform where people can access materials because it’s not everyone who owns a computer. People can still access for free but we are finalising a payment system for the business to become sustainable and still provide an affordable and reliable service. The idea is for us to turn into employers, we will need at least 20 people in sales, we will need IT people.
What are some of the challenges you are facing?
Farayi Goronga: We need to make improvements to the application as well as find ways and support to reach students in rural areas who have little access to mobile phones and computers. Creating partnerships has been a challenge because some of the offices we intend to get help from are not easily accessible or rather take a long time to have meetings due to the partners being busy most of the times Marketing the product is another challenge. Marketing requires funds.
What is your vision for Team Amigo?
Farayi Goronga: We want to provide students with easily accessible and affordable educational materials. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds - and there are many of those in our country and on the continent - can only get equal opportunities in education if they can access learning materials at a low cost and in the palm of their hands. We also want to tailor make special educational tools for people living with disabilities such as the visually impaired and those with hearing loss.
How is Generation Unlimited helping you to achieve that vision?
Farayi Goronga: The education system does not teach us how to run businesses and how to go about entrepreneurship. The boot camp and the networking helped us deal with these deficiencies. Since winning the global competition, we have been doing monthly pitches with different entrepreneurs in different areas where they help us develop our ideas. We are getting to see things from a different perspective that we never imagined before. Also, the seed money from Generation Unlimited will allow us to source more learning materials.
"We ended up creating one circle of friends with one goal in mind - to solve the challenges facing students in accessing educational materials."