How a Zimbabwean business coach went from gold panner to CEO

How a Zimbabwean business coach went from gold panner to CEO


  • Payne Farai Kupfuwa is CEO of the Young Miners Foundation.
  • Once unemployed, he joined a group of unregulated miners in his home town but was worried about the risks. 
  • Today Kupfuwa is not only a mentor to young miners, he also has his own mining company.

“I am always busy from Monday to Friday working for the Youth Miners Foundation, and on other days I will be at my own gold mine…” Payne Farai Kupfuwa, the 36-year-old CEO of the Young Miners Foundation (YMF), said, explaining his tight schedule as a mining entrepreneur, business coach and adviser to a growing number of informal miners and small mining companies.

Kupfuwa has become used to splitting his time between two very different worlds – his underground mine and the boardrooms and offices where he tries to pass on his 15 years of knowledge in an industry dominated by large multinational mining groups.

In 2008, after leaving college, Kupfuwa could not find work. So he joined a group of young people engaged in artisanal mining in his home town of Mberengwa, in south-east Zimbabwe. He soon realised the risks and limitations associated with engaging in artisanal or unregulated mining, in this part of the world.

“For several years, unemployed young men in Zimbabwe’s gold-rich areas made a living by working in unregulated mines with little to no safety procedures… these young, unskilled, artisanal miners are injured, trapped, or die when mining shafts collapse and do not have government permits to operate legally,” Kupfuwa said.

Realising that things needed to change, Kupfuwa formed the Young Miners Foundation (YMF) in 2009 to elevate and promote young people’s entrepreneurial participation in a more formalised and professional mining enterprise development.

“YMF started out with just two members and has since expanded to over 3 000 country-wide. I love the mining industry and my future plans according to YMF vision is to raise mining moguls from our own youth,” Kupfuwa said.

Kupfuwa has firsthand experience with the struggles of mining, but he is proud of his job and continues to push for all young miners to have the same rights as big mines.

“The goal is for all artisanal miners to be able to regularise their work, contribute to the economy, and grow their businesses,” he said.

According to Kupfuwa, his income from his small-scale mine oscillates between US$2 000 and US$5 000 per month.

“Since the country’s independence in 1980, most small-scale mines have not expanded production, showing a big gap in mining entrepreneurship, particularly among our young people who lack awareness,” he said.

Nyasha Magadhi, a member of YMF from the WeMine Zim Consultancy, stated that his company has gained a great deal from YMF boot camps, networking events, and participating in national business expos under the YMF umbrella.

“Getting clients was a mountain ahead of us, and business was slow. WeMine has finally recovered thanks to YMF, and all the credit belongs to them for the influx of new customers and businesses with interests in mining exploration and consultancy,” he said.

YMF also holds an annual networking event that brings together young miners from around Zimbabwe to share ideas and learn from each other. The event also features awards for outstanding young miners

”During my internship, we used to have agriculture field days where the best farmers would receive awards. The Young Miners Foundation Field Day is a concept adapted from farming, in which we select a successful Young Miner in their specific Province and invite other Young Miners from across the country, important stakeholders in mining, and value chain service providers to attend and interact on a set date,” Kupfuwa explained.

YMF encourages small-scale miners to legalise their operations and view mining as a business rather than merely a means of subsistence.


Payne Farai Kupfuwa is CEO of the Young Miners Foundation

“The organization does outreach to artisanal mines Monday through Friday, evangelizing on the benefits of formalizing their operations, which would allow young miners to grow their businesses and contribute more financially,” Kupufwa said.

The mission to further transform the lives of artisanal miners through education began when YMF signed an agreement with the Minerals Marketing Cooperation of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe School of Mines.

They came up with a training curriculum called “Fundamental and Small Scale Mining Management.

“Our collaboration with the Zimbabwe School of Mines and the Minerals Marketing Cooperation of Zimbabwe allowed us to conduct a training program on small-scale mining management and fundamentals. As a result, we have trained over 500 small-scale miners across the nation. We continue to work with young people to help them regularize all of their mining operations with the appropriate government agencies,” said Kupfuwa.

Nkululeko Ngwenya, a native of Bulawayo, is a beneficiary of the training offered by Kupfuwa.

“After learning about the land’s resources, I attempted to get into gold and chrome mining in 2017. This was made possible by YMF networking and training. They engaged the proper government agencies on behalf of our mining consortium to gain mining rights in gold and chrome, as well as supporting us in securing capital for the chrome project,” Ngwenya explained.

“As a member of the YMF, this was a significant game changer for me as I acquired mining claims. The mining sector has given me control over my destiny. My mine now employs almost 15 people,” he added.

According to Minister of Mines and Mining Development Soda Zhemu, Zimbabwean artisanal and small-scale miners generate over 50% of the nation’s gold.

“From January to September this year, small-scale miners contributed 13.8 tonnes of gold delivered to Fidelity, accounting for approximately 61% of total production. I urge you to keep up the good work so that we can meet the revised target of 36 tonnes for this year,” he said.

“The livelihoods in remote places have been transformed into modern society for example Maphisa, Filabusi, Kotwa, and many other places around Zimbabwe because of these artisanal miners,” said Dosman Mangisi, a mining consultant specialising in small-scale mining and a former spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Miners Federation.

Mangisi said he believes groups like Kupfuwa’s aid in keeping artisanal miners knowledgeable and privy to government policies. By becoming part of the formal economy, artisanal miners have the option of selling their gold for example to Fidelity Printers and Refiners, a printing and gold refinery company wholly owned by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

”The government’s open door policy to cooperate with artisanal miners has paid benefits as small-scale miners… no longer send gold to illegal markets but instead take it right to the Fidelity Printers,” Mangisi added.

Kupfuwa was presented with the Outstanding Miner of the Year 2023 Award at an award ceremony held in Bulawayo by Youth Network Connect, in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Development, and Vocational Training and the Zimbabwe Youth Council.

“This accolade will serve as a catalyst for our activities now that we are aware of the significant influence we are having in the mining industry,” Kupfuwa said.