In this story from Mozambique, we see a strong example of female resilience in the face of COVID-19. While businesses, like Dzimene, whose main clients are hotels and the tourist industry, are facing collapse, there are ways of turning the situation around in transformative ways.
Eulalia Muandula, a young wife and mother trained in agronomy, is one of the founding members of Dzimene Agribusiness, a small company distributing locally produced fruit and vegetables within the Mozambican market. A key strategy adopted in the face of strong competition was the use of attractive packaging of products to make them stand out and increase their appeal. Over the 4 years since its founding, the company has gone from strength to strength and the Dzimene brand has become associated with quality and appeal. Eulalia’s role in its success has received international recognition. In 2019, she won the “Young Entrepreneur” award in the Mozgrow Business Challenge and she was awarded first prize as the “Best Agritech/Foodtech of Mozambique” in the Southern Africa Startup Awards.
While the arrival of COVID-19 and consequent closure of restaurants and hotels has resulted in the temporary cessation of operations of Dzimene, Eulalia views this as an opportunity to rethink some aspects of the business model. Historically, Mozambique, like other countries has become reliant on foreign imports of food products, in particular from South Africa. In response to COVID-19, the doors to South African imports have been shut leading to acute domestic food shortages. The answer, according to Eulalia, is to develop sustainable food production chains in Mozambique from growing to distribution to processing. Mozambique is rich in arable land and has good agro-ecological conditions for most basic food cultures. This can not happen without government support, but the cost would be more than offset by the long term benefits in reducing the country’s dependence on food imports.
Inspired by this vision, Eulalia is in the process of re-inventing the company. When it returns post-COVID 19, it will be divided into 3 autonomous units of production: the growing and distribution of fruits and vegetables, the production of horticultural products and the commercialisation of cereals and grains. For Eulalia, despite the adverse circumstances of COVD-19, there is a lot of scope for entrepreneurs in the sector because: “there is a lot to be done and we, the young generation, need to help construct a new Mozambique”. Furthermore, in her view: “There are several opportunities for business and wealth creation. We just have to open our eyes and get stuck into it! We are going to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and we will emerge stronger and ready to meet the challenges facing the whole country.”