Zimbabwe's three mobile service providers - NetOne, Telecel and Econet Wireless - have agreed to fund technology startups in the country under an ICT Innovation Drive fund into which they will contribute 1% of their revenues.
This comes at a time when, generally speaking, tech startups in Zimbabwe face funding hurdles and many have to bootstrap.
The initiative will see Zimbabwe's government and the three telecommunications companies joining hands and jointly funding six technology startups.
"All the telecom companies in Zimbabwe are supportive of this innovation drive. They have agreed that they contribute 1 percent of their revenues into this fund. innovations will sit on their platforms and be downloaded from their platforms," said Supa Mandiwanzira, Zimbabwe's ICT Minister.
The tech startup scene in Zimbabwe is expected to benefit from the country's promising Internet penetration rate of around 50% which is buoyed by rising mobile Internet access. The six selected beneficiary startups under the Zimbabwean innovation drive include Oyos Music, Shift Organic Technologies, Red Pen, Purpose Science, Native Project and Afrimom.
Some tech startups in Zimbabwe are being nurtured in various tech hubs. These include MuzindaHub, B2B Hub, Harare Tech Hub and others. Takunda Chingodzo is a tech enthusiast and startup driver who has established tech hubs under the title Tech Village in Zimbabwe and he said on Wednesday, 14 March 2018 that he is driving to assist as many as 100 startups in the next few years under the Tech Village tech hubs.
Some of the startups that are disrupting the business and tech fronts in Zimbabwe include bitcoin and crypto-currency exchange platform, Golix, social media and news and comedy platforms BusstopTv, 263Chat and others. Innovator, Farai Mundangepfupfu has also come up with a mobile chat application Wangu, which seeks to localise and connect Zimbabweans through a chat application.
"It takes all of us to build the innovation ecosystem we all want in Zimbabwe. As young innovators we have to build the future that we want. My personal vision is to help build 100 start ups by 2020," he said.
Zimbabwe has also launched its ICT policy which seeks to modernise ICT platforms and egovernance in the country. The Zimbabwean President, Emmerson Mnangagwa said that most government websites were outdated and needed a revamp. He highlighted that e-government would help deal with corruption and bring convenience in accessing services through removing bureaucracy..
"Through modernisation of ICT policies we can create a conducive environment that can attract and foster foreign and domestic investment. The policy has inbuilt stabilisers to ensure it remains relevant.
"The policy seeks to accommodate SMEs who may want to play a role in the provision of digital communication systems," Mnangagwa said.
Under Robert Mugabe, who was ousted in November last year, Zimbabwe constricted social media spaces, with tech analysts saying this was meant to cripple dissent against the former ruler's lengthy stay in power and policies that drove down the economy. There is renewed hope that new leader Mnangagwa is tech savvy and will open up the space for tech innovations and start-ups to thrive while also creating an enabling environment for investments in the tech sector.