CAPE TOWN - Finally, there’s a place in Africa that can lead the African technology revolution and that place is - Zimbabwe. The leadership change in Zimbabwe could unleash a technology revolution in the country and across the African continent.
One of the great contributions by former President Mugabe was an education system that has produced some of the great African technology leaders, one of them being Sifiso Dabengwa, former MTN chief executive (MTN is the largest telecoms company in Africa). Dabengwa has earned a bachelor of science in engineering degree from the University of Zimbabwe.
The technology world is filled by young Zimbabwean people who are great software engineers. The streets of South Africa are filled by great African innovations that are created by Zimbabwean nationals who are entrepreneurs.
The contributions by people of Zimbabwe are not yet visible in the Zimbabwe economy due to the fact that the environment was not conducive for people to thrive and use their skills for economic development.
Now is the time for Zimbabwe to show the world their innovations and rebuild the Zimbabwe economy.
Technology will play a critical role in the development of the Zimbabwe economy. Zimbabwe is uniquely positioned to lead the technology revolution in Africa.
Its challenges are perfect ingredients for the development of a tech driven country. The absence of quality internet, the absence of a national currency, the flight of tech skills and the absence of major local tech platforms in the country are some of the key challenges that will inspire technology investments and inspire tech-led transformation.
In order for Zimbabwe to derive value from technology it will have to establish a solid technology foundation that will have to include fast internet across the country, including the rural areas.
In terms of currency challenges Zimbabwe is the perfect country in the African continent to start experimenting with crypto currency, and it is already making use of this technology.
According to the British Telegraph, Bitcoin has become a safe haven for many that have fretted about their rapidly deteriorating finances.
The Telegraph has indicated that the digital currency has been trading at up to $13000 (R180722) on Golix, the UK’s primary bitcoin exchange, m ore than 50percent higher than bitcoin’s global price of around $8000.
Bitmari - a Zimbabwean based crypto currency company led by Sinclair Skinner - is one of the leading entities advocating for the use of crypto currency.
Technology skills are another critical element that will enable a tech-enabled Zimbabwe.
Over the past few years technology skills have left Zimbabwe.
The recent changes in the country should enable an environment that will invite back technology skills in Zimbabwe.
Technology start-ups across Africa should begin to view Zimbabwe as an ideal environment to launch great African technology solutions.
This is not a moment for technology multinationals to close the space for African technology firms.
Technology start-ups led by start-ups in Zimbabwe should use this moment to collaborate and create solutions in the following areas: education technology, health technology, transport technology, agriculture technology, financial technology, social media platforms and other areas.
According to Wikipedia, in 2016 through Jumia, Nigeria proved that it is possible for Africa to create a technology unicorn.
Jumia became the continent’s first unicorn being valued more than $1billion.
It launched in Lagos in June 2012, and was followed by Jumia Market (formerly Kaymu), a community based online marketplace in September of that same year.
Jumia Travel (formerly Jovago), an online hotel booking platform, was launched in Nigeria in June 2013, just before Jumia House (formerly Lamudi), Jumia Car (formerly Carmudi) and Jumia Food (formerly Hellofood).
The last two services, Jumia Jobs and Jumia Deals were launched in April 2015. As of 2017, there are 126 websites in activity across 23 African countries.
As of 2016, Jumia had 126 operations across 23 African countries, thus covering 90percent of African gross domestic product and 3million customers.
The Zimbabwe moment is an opportunity for African technologists to play a role in transforming the Zim economy and at the same time lay the foundation for the African technology landscape by creating African technology unicorns that will play a role in solving the employment, education, health, housing and other social challenges in the continent.
Oliver Mtukudzi should form part of an online music platform in Zim. He is Zimbabwe’s most renowned and internationally recognised cultural icon of all time. His influence in collaboration with local tech leaders could lead to the creation of Africa's greatest music platform.
People like Sifiso Dabengwa should play a leading role in shaping the tech landscape in Zimbabwe.
Each start-up founder in the African continent should consider expanding to Zimbabwe, and more importantly collaborate with Zim tech start-ups to showcase what Africa can do in the technology space.
As previously indicated by this column, Zimbabwe became one of the first countries in the continent to establish a cyber-security ministry. This was a great step, assuming it was not intended to stifle internet freedom.
The new leadership in Zimbabwe should also consider the establishment of the innovation ministry, to map out how the country will use technology to become the leading technology driven economy in the African continent.
The University of Zimbabwe produced a leader who graduated with a BSc (Hons) in electrical engineering.
He, thereafter, obtained an Msc in computer engineering and a PhD in robotics and mechatronics and became a research scientist at Nasa, a professor at MIT. This leader is known as Professor Arthur Mutambara.
Leaders like him should lead the way in shaping Africa's technology future using Zimbabwe as the launchpad.
Wesley Diphoko is the founder of Kaya Labs.