Harare: An Imported Social Scene

Like South Africans go wild when international brands announce their launch into South Africa, Zimbabweans have enjoyed the introduction of some South African brands into their world. Think of the madness that ensued when Starbucks, Krispy Kreme and the likes touched down in South Africa.

Food Lover’s Market, Sam Levy’s Village
Photo cred: Sam Levy’s

I recently took a trip to Sam Levy’s Village in Borrowdale, Harare (commonly known as ‘the Village’, Harare’s equivalent of Sandton City) to watch a movie at South African major cinema brand, Ster-Kinekor. It was fascinating to see the brands that line the entertainment cul-de-sac of the Village. Restaurants and leisure brands there include Mugg & Bean, Newscafe, Smooch, Ocean Basket and Simply Asia in addition to Ster-Kinekor. All of these are South African brands. I felt like I had escaped the reality of Zimbabwe and transported myself back to Sandton City as the cul-de-sac buzzed with tweens, teens, young adults and families of different races.

Ocean Basket, Sam Levy’s Village  Photo cred: Sam Levy’s

In having a conversation with my parents about this phenomenon of South African brands, my Dad highlighted that the success of brands like Pick n’ Pay and Food Lovers’ Market has boosted the confidence of external investors. We have even seen KFC relaunch itself in the market after previous arrivals and unceremonious departures. This is great for our economy which has been on its knees for years and is in desperate need of foreight investment.

As an avid brand enthusiast, however, I cannot help but look and ponder at what this means for Zimbabwe aside from the obvious economic benefits. This is by no means a conclusive review of the Harare social scene. There are plenty of other local brands that serve the Zimbabwean population. You see, however, the unfortunate thing is the Village is targeted at a small minority of Zimbabweans who can afford to have a thriving social life unlike much of the population. This means the fortunate few are spending on brands that are essentially taking money out of a country that is in a huge cash crisis. Pity.

Another thing is, places like the Village foster a false sense of wellbeing when reality is, there are huge levels of unemployment and poverty in Zimbabwe. This increases the disparity between the haves and have nots. Typical of a struggling economy, it is a sad thing to witness the elite living in excess whilst the rest scramble to survive.

Finally, it saddens me that Zimbabwean citizens are so thrilled by these brands who have come into the country charging premium prices for their services which are, otherwise, standard-tier brands. Try stunt on someone in South Africa about dining at ‘Ocean Basket’ or having drinks at ‘Newscafe’ and see their reaction. It’s really nothing to write home about.

Newscafe, Sam Levy’s Village
Photo cred: Sam Levy’s

At the end of the day, I understand that there are many issues at play and this is a sign of progress for Zimbabwe. There are also some local brands that have done and continue to do well such as Pariah State and Chicken Inn (they opened a chain of drive-thru venues). My concern is that we become so enthralled with importing brands instead of creating, supporting and helping local brands flourish. We have a way to go before local brands can establish themselves and thrive as well as their international counterparts, but I don’t think it’s too soon to be careful.

I really want to see local and African brands grow from the ground up and thrive. One day, I hope we’ll be able to and be excited about exporting our own brands to countries that we have been consuming from for decades.

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H-Town Glory

Home has been on my mind a lot lately. With elections coming up, I guess it’s no doubt it has been. I was going through some old pics and came across ones from a holiday in 2009 when I took two of my friends, both who are from South Africa, home with me. I got to show them H-town, my ‘home-town glory’.

Most of the media reports to do with Zimbabwe dwell more on the negatives than the positives. Granted, as a nation we have gone through a lot, but there is a great deal more to Zimbabwe than what meets the average reader’s eye. So I decided to write this post in celebrating the place I call home.

If ever you want to rekindle your love for home, I suggest inviting a foreign friend home, exploring it through their fresh eyes. It makes you appreciate the gems you have at home. For me, it is an honour and a privilege to do so. I hope you enjoy this ride ’round my home-town 😉

Pick-Ups and Stock-Ups

First up, we scooped up the hommies, Camme and Didi from Harare International Airport which stands so tall and proud. Our first day together, we rolled through the streets of H-town and did went to do some shopping at Bon Marche, a local retail store. Given the dry spell of 2008, Didi and Cam were impressed to see the shelves fully stocked.

Curio Shopping

A highlight for me was when we went curio shopping with the ladies at Doon Estate in Msasa. There is so much great local talent on display here, showcasing the creativity of Zimbabweans. I had a blast admiring what was on offer. After this, we went to grab some tea at Sam Levy’s Village in Borrowdale AKA ‘Village’ – no trip would be complete without popping through this local hang out spot. Many hours have been spent trolling those paved streets by the young and adolescent.

Flea Market

Avondale shopping centre was a popular hang out spot back in my day. We’d go watch movies, grab coffee, take strolls around the flea market and have lunch with friends amongst other things. One can make some great finds at the local flea market.

Dinner, Dancing and Departures

The final night comprised of dinner at Dongfang, a local Chinese restaurant in Chisipite followed by a fun night out and a quick stop by Pizza Inn on Samora Machel on the way home before bidding the ladies farewell.

My home-town, my heart.