Zimbabwe needs more young persons on listed company boards

As a shareholder of every listed company on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and a Councillor of Institute of Directors Zimbabwe (IODZ) there is a need for Transforming Zimbabwe’s Boardrooms for sustainable development in 2020 by having young persons as board members. Imagine a Zimbabwean board room talking blockchain, artificial intelligence, big data and how it can affect the company’s business model and competitive environment. Dream on this will not happen as our board rooms are dominated by boards of directors who are 60 years and above.  If this ever happen they will discover that the challenge is not just about technology, it is also about how to make their company’s culture more receptive to the types of transformation that digitisation requires. There is now a need to include young people on Zimbabwe’s board of directors.

Zimbabwe has probably the youngest population in the world, with the majority of the population under 40 years. Despite this ,under 40s representing one of the largest generations, very few young people currently serve on the country’s boardrooms of listed companies in Zimbabwe. The average age of a non-executive director in the Zimbabwe’s boardroom is 60 years old. We cannot continue to allow businesses and industry to continue to over look young people’s potential.

According to the World Economic Forum by 2020, the 20 to 39-year-old generation will account for half of the global workforce. At the same time, they will bypass their predecessors, Generation X, as the leading global consumer and business group. As Zimbabwe’s society continues to be overcome by the digital age and an economic environment that is dominated by a cashless society, board of directors are facing the increased pressures of having to keep up with the changing consumer and business behaviours. It also means that our boardrooms need to find ways to retain staff, as more employees shift towards roles which offer them a smoother ride.

The business landscape and operating environment has changed considerably over the last 15 years and Zimbabwe’s boards need to change to reflect this. There is no point having a board that has only experience of bricks and mortar and can only understand traditional marketing when the future of business model is rooted in digital trading and heavily influenced by social media.

The benefits of having young board of directors is young people are a large, fast-moving demographic that almost every organisation needs to embrace. Current trading and marketing techniques require businesses to first understand what their customer wants as an individual. Selling a mobile phone to a 20-something is different than selling one to a 60-something. Including young people can help ensure that services, products, events or decisions are more relevant and appropriate to the younger part of your stakeholder base.

Other benefits that comes with young people in your board rooms include, bringing a different perspective to decision-making.  Generally young people are more digital-tech savvy and every board room needs this in these times of cyber crimes. Young people’s leadership styles are inclusive and collaborative. And finally young people bring diversity on board and impacts on an organisation’s ability to attract and retain staff and customers.

While the institute of Directors Zimbabwe (IODZ) takes the leading role in the training of board members, IODZ needs to adopt mentorship of young boards to prepare them for future board appointments. The role of IODZ training involves delivering an essential understanding of the board’s role in corporate governance and risk management, this is an introduction to the duties and legal responsibilities of a director will enable you to tackle the challenges of the boardroom with fresh confidence and progress your career to the next stage.

Board rooms should not be retirement homes but vibrant economic centres of public and private organisations that embrace young minds.

Engineer Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi

Chairman of the ICT Division of Zimbabwe Institution Engineers (ZIE), Member of the Engineering Council of Zimbabwe (ECZ), Member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and a Councillor of Institute of Directors (IOD)

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