Zimbabwe needs more artisans for economic growth

By Jacob Kudzai Mutisi

Harare has six universities and only one polytechnic, its seems the national policy is focusing on producing managers without the workforce to do the practical work. There is now a need to relook at the national policy which focuses on introducing more vocational institutions. For Zimbabwe’s economy to  kick-start ,we now need to fully introduce apprentices and artisan programs. This strategy was used by Ian Douglas Smith to build Rhodesia during the white regime’s sixteen year rule. NRZ, Air Zimbabwe, Hwange, ZiscoSteel and SMM are all products of apprenticeship and artisanship programs. These institutions are battling because Zimbabwe did not continue producing workforce to keep up with the exodus of the workforce to regional and international markets.  The Rhodesian government national policy was focused on producing a practical workforce who would start as apprentices and end up being artisans. An artisan is a worker in a skilled trade, that involves making things by hand. Bricklayers, builders, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, Welders, Fitters, Turners, Millwrights, Sheetmetal Workers, Boilermakers, Mechatronics, Mechanics, Toolmakers, Patternmakers, Joiners, Shutterhands, Steel fixers, Glaziers, Plasterers, Tilers, Sound technicians and Instrumentation and electronic technicians, just to name a few are all classified as artisans.

It is government policy to focus on producing a lot of graduates ,our artisans are ageing and younger people are not exposed to the opportunities that are presented by Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (ZIMDEF). ZIMDEF role is to finance the development of critical and highly skilled manpower through a 1% Training Levy paid by registered companies in Zimbabwe and this is not being fully exploited. With the projected growth of universities, generally there is fear and concern that, in the next two decades, artisanship might disappear almost completely from the development landscape of Zimbabwe.

While unemployment is a major concern in Zimbabwe, the lack of skilled artisans is a major barrier to job creation and economic growth. Artisans play a huge and important role in the economic growth of our Zimbabwe and if we had more skilled artisans, it would also help our industries who are now often forced to look outside the country to find the right skillset due to the declining numbers.

There is also a theory that artisans are key because they all end up being entrepreneurs which is the prime cause of economic development which is critical now.  The rapid disappearance of technical labour skills and services is a bad omen for Zimbabwe’s future development, since master artisans are now entrepreneurs. Yet, our government and industrialist appear oblivious of this serious problem, as there are no concerted and concentrated researches and policy regarding this ominous development challenges taking place in our country.

There is now an urgent need to quickly increase numbers of artisans by increasing the number of vocational institutions as well as the need to improve the quality of artisan training which is a key driver of both economic growth and employment opportunities in Zimbabwe. With the current economic challenges, the demand for new artisans has become more limited to mining and manufacturing. However, with the “Second Republic” push for economic growth, hopefully this situation will change as economic conditions improve and it is essential for Zimbabwe to maintain and increase its number of qualified artisans in the long term.

Engineer Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi  writes in his personal capacity.

Chairman of the ICT Divison of Zimbabwe Institution Engineers (ZIE), Member of the Engineering Council of Zimbabwe (ECZ), Member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and a Member of Institute of Directors (IOD) Contact: +263772278161