The Sunday Mail
“I liked drawing a lot, especially in my childhood. This was part of my initiation into the world of construction.”
This is how Christopher Togaraseyi remembers how he got started.
Looking back with a tinge of satisfaction on a journey well-travelled, Togaraseyi (33) says it was not an easy walk to get where he is today.
Probably now heading one of the fastest growing companies in the construction, earthmoving and general maintenance industry, he speaks highly of the need to keep one’s head high above swirling waters, if one is to make it and survive in the cut-throat business world.
After finishing his Advanced Levels at Cranborne Boys’ High in 2004, where he studied Technical Drawing, Geography and Mathematics, he said there was one definite path destined for him – architecture and construction.
“I then left for the United States the following year, 2005, to study architectural technology. Upon finishing the programme in 2008, I came back home to start my journey.
“Mind you, this was the time when our economy was not doing so well,” he recalled.
But why leave the green side of the river in the United States, to come and settle back home, when Zimbabwe was going through probably one of its toughest economic times?
“As they always say, north, west, east or south; home is always best. There is something about where your heart lies, which is usually where you want to follow your passion.
“Besides, the industry in the States was white-dominated. To break into it, let alone dream of making a name there, was a long shot. So I thought it better to come back home. Similarly, if you follow closely the architecture and construction history of our country, there was a time when it was skewered against blacks, moreso in the days soon after independence. And I had a desire to help break down that distortion. That disparity has since evened out.”
After settling back in Zimbabwe with his passion for drawing structures, he noticed a yawning gap in the construction industry.
“Soon it dawned on me that the several clients who knocked on our doors did not know where to go to when they wanted to turn their architectural dreams into construction reality.
“I would get a lot of inquiries on construction and I saw an opportunity to grow myself and my business.
“The other good thing is that in the year after I came back and established here, the economy dollarised, bringing some stability in the construction sector.
“There was some kind of boom in the construction.”
He said as much as it was not rosy in the early days, taking each day at a time, he was soon to learn the ropes and the tricks of the industry.
Projects started flowing in.
“Our portfolio is still growing, but we have worked on some projects that we are proud of. Mugure, a private school just outside Chivhu, is one such project. We did the primary and secondary blocks. And there is a private hospital in Parktown in Harare, we also take a lot of pride in it. Throw into the mix several service stations, then you realise how well the industry has responded to our services.”
At the moment, Togaraseyi enthuses over his investment vehicle that is working on a private hotel in Nyanga, whose owner he is not at liberty to divulge, a supermarket in Bulawayo, plus a sprinkling of residential properties to the north of Samora Machel Avenue in Harare.
With a staff complement of 150, Togaraseyi says his company is on a growth trajectory.
“When we started we had only 15 workers. Now we also boast our own earthmoving equipment and tipper trucks to move building material.
“We strongly believe in brand Zimbabwe and it will take none but ourselves to take our country forward.
“If we put our minds to it, we can be the change that we want our country to be. We should stop mourning and work on what we have. What is happening in the construction industry is a positive sign.”
With eight tipper trucks, a bulldozer, three front-end loaders and a roller, Togaraseyi says he sees another yawning gap in road construction, given the current administration’s thrust to improve the country’s roads.
“We are looking at breaking into road construction. There is no way our country can develop or match the desired standards if we do not do our roads first.
“Roads are the backbone of any development, they are the nerve centre of any economy. And we want to play our part in that development matrix.
“The talk of the US$12 billion mining industry should tickle all those who see opportunities.
“If we can spread our wings into roads, why not also venture into mining? Mining is another sector that will change the fortunes of the country and we should not be left behind when the train takes off. In fact, it has already taken off.”
In terms of Government’s long-standing promise of clearing the housing backlog, Togaraseyi says they also have a low-cost housing project.
“We have a provision to service land for developers; they can pay us using stands. That way, we believe we can help in addressing the housing backlog, which has dogged the nation for quite some time now.”
Married to Kudakwashe Munaki, the couple is blessed with two children —Jayden (6) and Jillian (2).
Togaraseyi’s message to rising stars in any business field is to research, persevere and work hard.
“The idea is not to give up, but to work hard. And not just work hard, you should know the ins-and-outs of what you are doing, you must not grope in the dark. I started at a relatively tender age of 22. A decade later, I am happy that I have hung on when the odds seemed to be stacked against me.
“That is the spirit that our young entrepreneurs should have, never to give up, to always stay determined and focused.
“Whilst it is easier said than done, determination is central to achieving one’s goals.”