Are we a nation of educated fools?
“There is more to literacy than reading or writing”, This was a fundamental statement recently shared by one of the CEOs i look up to, the Founder of Econet Wireless, Mr Strive Masiyiwa which made me to deeply think and reflect on our local tech ecosystem.
Zimbabwe has been on record of being Africa`s most literate country for years, we have lived with the statistics for long and pride to have that badge above our neighbours. It’s very true, throw a stone and you will hit anyone who can read and write perfectly well.
By Toneo Tonderai Rutsito
Our Zimbabwean government has greatly invested in education with more than 90% literacy rate. Recently, during the Research and Interlectual Expo, i had a tête–à–tête with the permanent secretary of the ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Dr T Mbizvo who passionately spoke on how the government is committed to development of education and technology.
The permanent secretary had earlier on also revealed during an interview that Zimbabwe government has set aside 30% of its budget towards education which is a very huge chunk of the budget.which saw $332, 731 00 being allocated to the ministry.
Beyond any reasonable doubt , this is a huge investment the government has made and we are glad we have been seeing the returns through mass literacy, but what good is this literacy and what does that really translate to.
Going back to my initial statement, there is surely more to literacy. It’s high time we convert our national High literate levels to practical success and technology, an area of my heart which has greatly disappointed in that respect.
With the recently held Research and Intellectual Expo, RIE 2014 i saw hundreds of local initiatives where our students and research institutions were exhibiting projects with potential to turn around our fortunes though most of them really needed too much panel beating for relevance.
What rather boggles my mind, is why then after all these efforts, we still do have a sea of unemployed masses and doors shutting out on any new entries inside the industries. How come we have failed to translate all these developments into real industrial opportunities?
Of all these projects, efforts and innovations, we are not supposed to be worried about unemployment as most of these solutions themselves are supposed to be sustainable and create employment opportunities for the next generation.
Education and literacy becomes a nullity when we cant translate the heavy investment to transform our lives.
Why do we have countries like Kenya, South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria leading Africa in terms of technological development while they seriously lag behind Zimbabwe in terms of education and literacy.
Is our education system only teaching us to read and write figures and letters while it has failed to teach us to critically think through for sustainable solutions .
I strongly believe that Zimbabweans are much more innovative, even better than the top four leading innovating countries mentioned above. The search for this missing puzzle has greatly drained my energy as i painfully watch my creative generation fail to feed off their sweat.
Of course the major reason so far I have got from most entrepreneurs is the major challenge of capital injection. They do have the right ideas but lack the financial support to run it, hence hampering the development.
While this is obviously critical, its not true that capital availed will tremendously change our tech ecosystem pitting Zimbabwe on the African map of innovators. In contrary, i personally think this has been the major reason why we have failed to develop as there is too much talk of capital injection without brain coaching.
Today Kenya stands out in Africa, not because they are educated or highly financed, Noo. Kenya has become the ICT hub of Africa because they have invested in training and nurturing their local talent via the establishment of a plethora of technology hubs and incubators.
The Kenyan government has fortunately received tremendous donor support to construct technology incubators and many Non Governmental Organisations NGOs in Kenya have invested in training and nurturing the talent, slowly but surely they have created solutions that have greatly contributed to their national GDP.
Nairobi is currently the hotspot in the region with 16 technology hubs and still counting, innovation hubs, tech centers, accelerators and incubators
This is mainly because it is being flooded with venture capital and business angels looking for start-ups to invest in.
Even Google’s executive chairman Mr Eric Schmidt recently visited Nairobi and dubbed Kenya the continent’s technology leader with the launch of the U.S. $10 billion Konza Technology City just outside Nairobi is further evidence of the city’s promising future.
Of great interest is the place they coined the “iHub”, this is the co-working space for the tech community and business incubator which provides a space for entrepreneurs to receive mentorship and possible VC funding. More importantly, it also hosts the fastest Internet connectivity speed in the country.
The iHub is also home to the successful Ushahidi, a crowdmapping tool, a simple but effective tool that allows information to be crowdsourced via mobile phones and the Internet and it makes mapping that information easy . This was used to map reports of the 2008 electoral violence
Nigeria is in the top 10 mobile markets on the planet in numbers of subscribers, posing serious potentials, there is also Bongo Hive an innovation hub which aspires to support the tech community in Zambia,.
In Tanzania there is TanzICT founded in Dar es Salaam and KINU aims to become the central space for Tanzania’s tech community and was launched with grants from Google and Indigo Trust. We also have the iLab in Liberia, and the Ayiti Living Lab in Haiti leading in their regions.
What does Zimbabwe have, well from the government side we can safely say nothing, exactly one year ago, we saw two private technology hubs coming up in Zimbabwe that is Hypercube Hub a project spearheaded by The Indigo Trust which worked closely with Hivos and the US Embassy in Zimbabwe and Muzinda Hub a project supported by Tsitsi Masiyiwa, wife to Econet wireless founder Strive Masiyiwa.
This where our government has missed it and needs to read the new technological rules from a completely different book altogether. Educating and training students alone will not bring sustainable projects in this technological era, we now need to create Hubs and incubators to train and equip talent for sustainable technological developments.
Zimbabweans are way too gifted and smarter, should the playing field level up, we have the potential to become the home to technology in Africa.