Photograph — The Zimbabwean

As part of recovery efforts following the devastating Cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe, several companies are offering support and loans to businesses hit by the natural disaster. Among these organizations are financial services companies Cassava Smartech, Steward Bank and EcoCash – all part of the Econet Group.

The soft loans are to provide businesses owners, merchants and EcoCash agents with sufficient capital so that they can revive their businesses, most of which were swept away by the Cyclone.

According to Steward Bank CEO, Dr Lance Mambondiani, the group has seen $600,000 worth of loans extended to 120 small business owners – of 200 applications submitted – through an engagement with the local business community in areas affected.

“We also have 60 Kwenga (Point of Sale) application forms completed and submitted, which we should dispatch very soon so these business people can start trading again,” Mambondiani said, while he added that about 10 Kwenga devices were already issued to successful applications on Friday.

Apart from disbursing loans, senior executives of Steward Bank and EcoCash spent some time in Chimanimani – one of the areas wrecked by the Cyclone – engaging small businesses, merchants and EcoCash agents.

On its part, EcoCash has set a specific target of reaching about 400 merchants and agents in areas worst affected by the Cyclone, the company’s CEO, Natalie Jabangwe revealed.

“We are looking at getting about 400 merchants … and I am happy to say this week alone, we have received close to $2 million worth of applications done by 314 agents and merchants who are entitled to our ‘Reboot’ facility,” Jabangwe said.

Rehabilitation fund

Econet isn’t the only organization showing support. Last week, the business community in Zimbabwe pledged to raise $100 million together towards restoring livelihoods as well as the rehabilitation of infrastructure and social services damaged by Cyclone Idai.

This came on the back of the creation of a trust fund for the cause. In one night, the private sector and corporates pledged close to $40 million into the “Reboot Trust Fund”, an effort backed by Econet Group Founder and Chairman, Strive Masiyiwa.

Six-phase response plan

More so, the Econet Group has put in place a ‘six-phase’ response plan to the Cyclone disaster, of which it recently indicated that it was now transitioning into a new rebuilding phase.

Some weeks after Cyclone Idai wreaked havoc in the eastern parts of Zimbabwe, killing over 260 people in the process, EcoCash set aside $5 million for small businesses affected.

This is part of the initiative by companies within the Econet Group as part of efforts towards rebuilding the lives and economy of areas affected by the Cyclone. The agreement is that each business in the group would find ways of helping their customers and the communities they serve.

The current phase of the plan follows earlier ones – the Search and Rescue; Relief; Recovery and Clean-up stages – which are winding to a close. Thus, the company is now entering the ‘reboot livelihoods’ phase, a stage that complements its long term ‘Reimagine Rural’ programme.

The Econet Group comprises several companies which include Econet Wireless, Cassava Smartech, Liquid Telecom, DPA etc. Also involved in the plan is Higherlife Foundation, founded by Masiyiwa and his wife, Tsitsi.

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