The dawn of Zimbabwe disruptive Innovation
  • ZimHack
  • Zimbabwe, Innovation, Technology
  • 11 April, 2018

It is easy to look around and comment on how certain things are being done the wrong way and how others are failing to meet the expected standard of performance. This is the usual order of the day as young men watch a game of soccer.

Soccer is one sport that has dominated social conversations of young Zimbabweans, one’s tone of voice as they comment on a particular match or log position is good enough to hint which team they support. Being a loyal fan comes with little to no tangible benefits besides the satisfaction of association when victory belongs to “my team”. While the shame of losing is a more bitter a pill to swallow than a cocktail mix of lemon, vinegar and a dash of red chillies.

Over the past decades the positive correlation between high literacy and high unemployment in Zimbabwe has triggered nothing more than low motivation among the youths to envision a modern technology driven economy. Muko is a young 25 year old man who graduated with a Bachelor of Science Honors degree in Computer Science (with distinction).

13 months after his graduation with no hope of getting a job, he settled for the option of starting a small business of selling chickens from his parents backyard. Is this what he envisioned as he spent sleepless nights learning code in Java script, C# and countless other programming languages? One may assume that Muko is an outlier and that he should get his act together, but he is not, I choose to say he is an “inlier”. He is among the over 95% unemployed and educated youths in the country.

“My government recognises the critical importance of domestic innovation in today’s national economies as I have seen today. We as government should be able to provide supportive measures as well as funding to support the young people in their quest to increase and modernise methods and systems to increase and grow our economy. Accordingly, it is imperative to foster innovation at national level and to mitigate unsustainable dependency on external innovations”. These are the words of President E.D. Mnangwagwa at a youth function in Harare in March of 2018.

How do we foster innovation? How do we get Muko to identify the problems around him and develop the domestic tech-solutions required to increase and grow our economy? We may as well jump to the most preferred answer to these common questions, and say “ simply provide the necessary funding to support the young women and men like Muko”. Infamously for now I will disagree with that response. To foster innovation, we need to start by fostering a solution oriented culture, one that drives and promotes innovation, a culture that awakens the youths to see a future built on customized advanced tech-solutions. A future were the biggest informal market in the capital Harare (Mbare) is transformed into a thriving technology hub that leverages on AI solutions that efficiently distribute fresh organic produce to a customer at their doorstep before they run out of home supplies.

The current boom of Nairobi’s Silicon Savannah can be traced back to 2003 with M-Pesa launch, fast-forward into 2010 with the establishment of iHub. And to-date, start-ups in Kenya are not only viewed as something that keeps the youths away from the streets, but as platforms for youths to significantly contribute towards economic growth and employment creation. If Zimbabwe is to restore its legacy as the breadbasket of Africa, will the baskets we export be full of grain? or full of technologies that may/will efficiently produce grains for the estimated 2.5billion people in Africa by 2050, who by the way will equate to a quarter of the world population, and by 2100 the number of youth in Africa is set to triple.

With the launch of ZimHack, we challenge the loyal soccer fan and critic to enter into the game and play the ball and not watch from the terrace, our mandate is to revive confidence in someone like Muko, for him not to give up on his hard earned skill but utilize it to solve the many problems around him. Let us start by fostering a new culture in Zimbabwe before we seek funds to support scalability. A culture were the existing high literacy has a negative correlation to high unemployment as we champion domestic innovation and not only “recognise” its importance.

ZimHack is an initiative of Data Science Zimbabwe Trust that seeks to support innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation in Zimbabwe through the adoption and use of advanced analytics, data science and modern technology. This will be achieved through building capacity and developing skills in data science, advanced analytics, solutions development and entrepreneurship among youth and innovators in Zimbabwe.

Let’s build the Zimbabwe!