Photos show the Internet cafe in use
Zimbabwe: A Cafe for the Future
by a report produced by The Salvation Army’s Switzerland, Austria and Hungary Territory
Funded through Switzerland
It’s easy for people in the developed world to assume that needs in Africa are basic – food, water, health care, education and housing top most people’s expectations. What is forgotten is that, in much of Africa, the needs are far more sophisticated and complicated than that. Africans have the same intellectual capacity, the same drive and the same abilities as their more well-off friends in other parts of the world. What they don’t have is the technology – and wealth – to make the most of their lives and escape the poverty trap.
This need for things beyond the basics can be seen clearly in a project, funded by Accentus Foundation through The Salvation Army in Switzerland, at The Salvation Army’s Masiye Training Camp in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. There they have set up an Internet cafe which aims to be ‘a unique, up-scale and innovative cafe in an environment that brings young people of diverse interests and backgrounds together in a common forum’. The establishment of the Internet cafe is in line with the promotion of self-sustenance in Masiye Camp.
Since the opening of the cafe last year, a new community has been formed. Despite the small number of computers, it has become one of the two most popular internet cafes locally and has brought together a young and loyal clientele.
Most of the clients have an emotional attachment to the cafe, making it an ideal place to disseminate information and impart values and information to young people. The city centre location makes the cafe an ideal hang-out for youths in Bulawayo.
The project has brought with it great challenges, but the people running it have been able to learn a lot already. One of the greatest challenges has been to make the service solvent while still charging rates that attract young people who have very little money. In the long term, a bigger cafe would help make things easier.
It has also been seen that youths need to identify with a place in order to appreciate its values. The cafe has created an information hub because its notice board has become an easy way to get information straight to local young people. One of the main tasks in the project’s first year has been trying to create an atmosphere that’s inviting to the youths while remaining firm in the messages portrayed through the message board, particularly on issues of abstinence and behaviour change.
The appeal to young people is helped because most of the staff members are within their age group. This is a deliberate policy.
As the facility grows, The Salvation Army in Zimbabwe hopes to be able to provide a service for more young people. In doing so, it also hopes to be able to pass on Christian values and ways of living. This hope, together with the knowledge that the cafe provides a safe place to learn and to broaden the horizons of Zimbabwe’s young people, makes the scheme as valuable to the people who benefit as any of the more traditional African development projects.