Zimbabwe is a haven of resilient, creative and passionate technology entrepreneurs, now commonly known as technoprenuers .
Unfortunately the biggest challenge affecting the growth of local technologies in Zimbabwe, be it ICTs , Bio, Nano or Mechatronics is lack of seed funding towards start-ups.
Zimbabwe `s financial systems are not ready or willing to fund start-ups or let alone “creative ideas”. The excuse from them is mainly the risk factor which is too high and undeniably their lack of understanding the technological landscape and the prospects of investing such avenues.
Knock any financial door and you will hear them reading from the same page, “sorry we do not fund grey areas, you will need to be operational for years to qualify under our funding schemes”
Although this may out rightly sound justifiable from the institutions perspective across the nation, as they safeguard their financial position- what they are also not noticing is that by so doing they are simply conveying a message that Zimbabwe is not ready to have any new ideas injected into the system .
This poses serious effects of halting technological developments, killing the blazing passion amongst the upcoming technoprenuers who in other countries are slowly becoming the bedrock of their economy directly affecting the national GDP and obviously an country like Kenya comes in mind.
While the government has specific arms like SEDCO under the ministries of SMEs, to fund small and medium enterprises, the minimum conditions set thereof are not conducive for start-ups either and serious efforts to bridge this gap will make the difference.
CABS bank among the few conventional institutions will have to be greatly commended for seed funding local start-ups under the National Youth programme in conjunction with the ministry of youth empowerment and indigenisation. They have extended a life line technoprenuers, offering them an opportunity to see their dreams come true.
The Ministry Of Science and Technology under their Research and Development (R & D) programme recently unveiled a programme to fund local technology projects. They are currently calling out for local projects involving technological methodologies to solve our day to day programmes.
This is another shot in the arm for upcoming trade experts from the Science, industrial, agricultural or electrical engineering background amongst the technologies to see their projects through, although details are still sketchy on the stages of which a project would be deemed fundable.
The Research Council Of Zimbabwe (RCZ), a mother body mandated to promote, direct, supervise, and coordinate research is currently driving the socio-economic development through research output.
Their baby organisation ,Scientific and Industrial Research Development Centre (SIRDC) is one arm on ground with local institutions pushing the development of technologies and nurturing of sustainable projects but the financial hole still remains unfilled.
It is quiet sad to note that Zimbabwe has not been receiving much help from the donor community or Venture Capitalists (VC) to prop up the development of our technologies unlike other countries.
Most African Countries today especially Kenya and Nigeria have global technological success stories they proudly cherish.
Kenya alone has been known world-wide for M-Pesa, a money transferring system which we can equal to our own EcoCash which was pioneered by their mobile operator Safaricom and more than 60% of the population transact on the platform significantly increasing their national GDP.
The prospects of the technological revolution are well understood in Kenya and Today their Capital City, Nairobi which was once nicknamed “Nai-robbery” because of crime rates has become the hub of Technology in Africa with criminal activities reducing by more than 40% in the capital city as the populace now concentrates on the opportunities offered by technology.
Nairobi is currently the hotspot in the region with 16 and still a 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 futureI
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
Before the elections, investors were quite sceptical but with the Kenyan elections over and investors pacified, a flood of money is expected to flow into the country.
Besides Kenya, there are at least 91 tech hubs in Africa, according to CrowdMap, an app, which is crowdsourcing all of the technology hubs and incubators across the continent.
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.
The major difference behind their success story to our Zimbabwean ecosystem is not because these countries are much gifted neither do they work harder than us no, The truth is they have way better support, financial and technical.
From the Venture Capitalist 4 Africa (VC4A), to the business Angel Investors, crowd funding, donor funds, and the technology giants cash injection, surely they are well placed to accelerate as they float on free money.
Coming back home we still have our own tech start-ups, with Jumpstart leading the pack, working with very limited resources we take pride in the quality of the apps we have made so far, patiently waiting, One day God will send the business angels home too.