For our new Limitless series on young African women changing the game in male-dominated industries, we interview Stephanie Kapfunde, a young Harare-based entrepreneur who’s out to build her own media empire.
Stephanie Kapfunde has always been bold. “My mom would always tell me that growing up people would always say: ‘This one’s a leader. This one should speak’,” she says. Little has changed now she’s running her own company. “You are always fighting, and you always have to have your armour on because everything around you is working overtime to make sure your doors are shut.”
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As founder of Enthuse Afrika, one of few media brands in Zimbabwe with a woman at the helm, Kapfunde is blazing a trail. Her digital media imprints include: Enthuse Mag, Bhizimusi and Hallelujah Mag. Last year, she opened Afrotopia, the first co-working and co-learning space situated in the heart of Harare’s CBD.
Not bad for a small-town girl. Kapfunde was born in Hwange, a town famous for coal mining, 90km away from Zimbabwe’s most famous tourist destination, the Victoria Falls. She later attended boarding school in Gweru. “I was a very pensive kid, but confident when the time called for it,” she says. “I used to write very well. Journaling, debate club, yeah that was me.” At the University of Namibia, she started writing for the university newspaper and became a voice on radio, before moving to Harare where she worked for the national broadcaster. “ZBC made a journalist out of me,” she says. “They made a producer and a journalist out of me against the odds.”
It was through working at ZBC that she discovered the iconic Book Cafe, a café and performance venue for musicians and creatives. It was here she developed a passion for documenting their lives and achievements through setting up the media platform Enthuse Afrika. “[It] was a dream, a vision. I literally had three dreams about starting this thing,” she says. “But I also remember thinking, can I really do this in Zimbabwe? Because Zimbabwe is hard.”
I still find myself as the youngest person in the room at 31.
Despite many obstacles, Kapfunde started Enthuse Afrika in 2015 and the opening of Afrotopia in 2020 has added a much-needed, digital space in downtown Harare to allow young people to be online, co-create and start building their startups from the bottom up. It hasn’t been easy, especially since women are severely under-represented in the digital media space. “I still find myself as the youngest person in the room at 31,” she says. “And if you’re not the youngest, you’re the only skirt.”
The fact that she’s a woman does mean she has to fight preconceptions, she says. Although things are changing slowly, she’s developed strategies for dealing with colleagues from older generations. “I will make a joke and apologize: ‘Excuse me, I’m sorry I’m not a male!’” she says. “I always try to highlight it”. Her success speaks for itself. “I am the youngest lease holder at Construction House, a 12-floor building in downtown Harare,” she says.
What advice would she give to other young women interested in going into the media business? “It’s the most turbulent, the biggest emotional investment of your life. It’s potentially traumatizing, but also so emotionally satisfying to start something bigger than yourself. You will fail multiple times, but the biggest failure I believe, is failure to learn from your failures.”
With thanks to Africa No Filter who made this series possible.