A Zimbabwean entrepreneur, Shep Mafundikwa has launched what would go down in history as the first Cigar Manufacturing Company, a local brand of hand-rolled cigars, defying coronavirus and economic odds to light up manufacturing.
Upon returning last year to his homeland after 15 years working in the United States, Shep Mafundikwa was determined to start a business that would “benefit” Zimbabwe and has gone ahead to launch the first Cigar Manufacturing Company.
“Though I am not a smoker, I noticed a preponderance of cigar lounges across the United States and decided I’d try to corner some of that market,” said Mafundikwa, 54, who worked for an American airline.
He started with trips to Cuba and the Dominican Republic, both premium cigar producers, where he recruited Dominican cigar-rolling maestro Elias Lopez.
The pair selected air-cured Burley tobacco, a darker variety that accounts for a small percentage of local production.
In May, Mafundikwa launched Mosi Oa Tunya Cigars — the local Lozi name for the Victoria Falls, which translates to “the smoke that thunders”. Against all odds
“It was like building a house from scratch,” Mafundikwa recalled. “Though I had settled on hand-rolled cigars there was still equipment needed.”
One of the first setbacks was the brittle nature of Zimbabwe’s tobacco, which forced Mafundikwa to import special wrappers.
When the coronavirus hit Zimbabwe in March, progress was delayed for weeks by a country-wide lockdown.
Mosi Oa Tunya eventually opened in May and Lopez has since been teaching seven Zimbabwean women the craft of rolling cigars.