Sparking Entrepreneurial Passion in Zanzibar


I was not sure what to expect when starting my business training sessions with the dozen men who live in one of Zanzibar’s sober houses. I had been told that these men were demoralized, and recovering from addiction without much prospect of employment upon return to their communities. Zanzibar struggles with unemployment and even those who do work tend to only make a modest income. The issue is particularly challenging for those with addiction issues, as financial pressure and idle time often lead to a return to substance abuse.

Needless to say, I felt nervous for my first session! We began with introductions, where it was humbling to hear each man speak to his desire to overcome addiction challenges. As I began speaking about interconnectedness and the basic principles of supply and demand, the men took notes, asked questions and spoke thoughtfully in breakout discussions. In spite of the obstacles they faced, these men were keen to learn about the tools they could use to improve their circumstances.

Over the course of 8 sessions, we covered topics ranging from the importance of friendly customer service to the depreciation of assets. Often, we played games, using paper money and crayons to represent different business scenarios while trying to use local business examples whenever possible. I compared marketing promotion to the jiggling of coins that young men use when trying to sell peanuts in the market, or that the daladalas are a good example of business efficiency as they always depart fully packed.

As an added component, the young men and I collaborated on a business plan for the sober house itself, allowing them to operate a small business and gain valuable experience and income during their time recovering from addiction. These young men are currently working on business plans for themselves, once they reintegrate into their communities.

It is inspiring to see these men persevere through their obstacles, and although we rarely discuss their addictions; it is clear that the impact runs deep. When discussing where these men could get financial support, one of the participants stated, “If I can avoid using drugs and my family believes they can trust me again, they will lend me the money.” Sustaining a business in Zanzibar is difficult enough without the sort of adversity these men face, but with their earnestness and new found business knowledge, these young men have hope for a fulfilling future.

Share your skills and collaborate with our youth partners on our upcoming summer programs in Tanzania.

Al Pomerant, Youth Innovator, Tanzania 2014 



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