To make change happen in Africa and to make the right decisions at the right time, you need to understand the facts, you need access to accurate information, and you need to hear people’s stories and opinions. In South Africa, Chimango Research, a specialist consultancy launched by entrepreneur Tia Linda Zuze, is undertaking research initiatives that provide the essential data needed by those in change-making positions on the continent.
LoA met with founder Tia Linda Zuze this month to find out more.
What does your company do?:
Chimango is a research consultancy that was set up to identify the best solutions for the challenges facing marginalised communities in Africa. At Chimango, we believe that asking and answering the right questions in the right way can help Africa to thrive. There are over 61 million children who are out of school and more than half of these children are in sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, 27 out of the 28 poorest countries are in Africa. Across Africa, women are less likely than men to have formal bank account. These are just a few examples of the issues that people face across the continent. At Chimango research, we believe that change is possible, with the right information and a suitable level of commitment.
“At Chimango, we believe that asking and answering the right questions in the right way can help Africa to thrive.”
What inspired you to start your company?:
There is growing interest in Africa as an investment destination but for me, Africa is far more than a source of natural resources. Africa's population is young and some see this as a problem What I see is potential. I believe that the solutions to so many of our global threats rest in these young minds - the cures for diseases, innovations to address environmental threats not to mention the creativity that young Africans can share with the world, if given a chance. The word 'chimango' means a tying together. We bring together good research, accessible results and thoughtful conversations to enable change.
Why should anyone use your service or product?:
Although they might have different motives, many different types of organisations and development agencies have an interest in seeing the African continent develop. Whether you are company that is interested in finding out whether there is a business case for financial service or product, or a company that plans to build libraries in rural schools, you need to understand what works for the market that you are planning to invest in.
Tell us a little about your team.:
Depending on the country and the scope of the research, my team consists of local and international partners. I believe that it is very important to develop young talent, wherever I work. Each project involves working with at least two young researchers so that they can gain practical experience and be inspired by how to tell stories from data.
“The word 'chimango' means a tying together. We bring together good research, accessible results and thoughtful conversations to enable change.”
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?:
I'm probably the last person you would describe as an entrepreneur. I started my career as a university academic. I completed a PhD in Economics from the University of Cape Town in 2009 and benefited from one of the best programmes on the continent. Even then, the questions that I was asking were focused on reducing poverty and inequality. I really enjoyed this season of my career and I still set aside time to supervise doctoral students and to mentor young researchers. Four years ago, I decided to use what I had learned to set up a company that brought together excellence in research with accessible results and honest discussions with decision makers.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?:
Technology has changed the way that research is carried out and how results are shared. This means that research can be carried out more efficiently and the results can be shared with a wider audience. I would also like to develop a network of young, innovative, researchers across Africa, who can support each other on their professional journeys.
“If you want to grow, you need to be able express your ideas clearly and concisely. You need to be able to convince others and that begins by convincing yourself that what you are doing matters.”
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?:
Being able to push the boundaries of what people think is possible. As an entrepreneur, there is more space to ask the 'what if' and the 'so what' types of questions because you aren't sitting in an echo chamber where everyone is agreeing with you and patting you on the back. If you want to grow, you need to be able express your ideas clearly and concisely. You need to be able to convince others and that begins by convincing yourself that what you are doing matters. I feel like I've been pushed outside of my comfort zone - and I'm someone who really really likes comfort zones. I'm better off for it.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?:
Nothing you have experienced (success or failure) has been a waste. You will be amazed by how much of what you have been through (whether it's surviving on a few hours of sleep while raising your kids, to that degree that you didn't finish or did finish and then wish you hadn't, to that business partner who let you down), everything will make you a better business woman. So be kind to yourself and celebrate where you are, even as you dream about where you are going.
Contact or follow Chimango Research
Why LoA loves it….
Today, data underpins societal and political decision-making that affects the lives of ordinary citizens in large numbers across the African continent. But so often, accurate data and deep insights need to be obtained by getting out into communities, asking the right questions of the people within our society, and then analysing that data to produce the necessary foundation for policy-making. Entrepreneurs like Tia Linda Zuze are playing a critical role in ensuring that quality research is being undertaken across the continent to inform and educate those who are making decisions that can affect the lives of many. She and her team at Chimango are playing a key role in generating insights that are pivotal in ensuring big decision-making reflects the needs of those in society. — Melanie Hawken, founder and ceo of Lionesses of Africa