Zimbabwe has started to open up its ICT (Informatiin and Communications Technology) sector for potential investment through effecting much awaited tech sector parastatals reforms, infrastructure development and rolling out of new platforms such as telemedicine at a time when Zimbabwean technology startups have started to attract funding, interest, and support.

The case for ICT and innovation development in Zimbabwe is boosted by the country’s Internet penetration rate of approximately 50%. Startups in the ICT sector have started to ride on this and e-commerce is soaring, with most transactions taking place online.

"Zimbabwe's President Emerson Mnangagwa has adopted a 'Zimbabwe is open for business' strategy aimed at boosting investment flows into sectors such as ICT."

“Developing ICT infrastructure and harnessing technology-driven innovation, in all sectors of the economy, is a key goal for my government. We will continue to facilitate the spread and connectivity of our ICT infrastructure across Zimbabwe, though programmes such as the National Backbone Optic Fibre Project,” said Emerson Mnangagwa, President of Zimbabwe, earlier this week.

Areas such as telemedicine have started to get attention from the government which is anticipating that private sector players will jump on to these platforms. President Emerson Mnangagwa whose Zanu PF party ousted former leader, Robert Mugabe in November 2017, also said that he has adopted a “Zimbabwe is open for business” strategy aimed at boosting investment flows into sectors such as ICT, mining and manufacturing.

Telemedicine

The Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), which regulates the telecommunications industry in Zimbabwe has reported that it has kick-started telemedicine programmes in the country. This has come at a time when doctors in Zimbabwe recently went on strike before the current industrial action by trained nurses at public health institutions.

Sibonginkosi Muteyiwa, an executive with POTRAZ said this week that the Zimbabwean telecommunications industry regulator was embarking on a “special project called telemedicine that we will be rolling out.”

She explained that under the telemedicine project, “rural district hospitals (will be connected) to clinics in the same district where the health facilities can be between 200 and 300 kilometres (and) where doctors cannot go” because of logistical challenges.

Consultation of doctors will now be carried out over the Internet, bringing greater convenience and ease of providing healthcare services.

Other technology developments

POTRAZ is set to be merged together with the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, which covers broadcasting regulations in Zimbabwe under new reforms recently announced by Mnangagwa, including part privatisation of loss making state telecom parastatals.

Although there has been some movement and activity in the public sector ICT sphere in Zimbabwe, private companies have also come to the party. Econet Wireless, the biggest telecommunications company in Zimbabwe, this week received licensing to construct a massive solar power plant in Zimbabwe as the company innovates beyond its traditional telecommunications business.

Budding innovators have also jumped on to the bandwagon, with tech start-ups in Zimbabwe now getting the attention of investors and funders. Innovation hubs in Zimbabwe such as TechVillage have been receiving guests keen to gain knowledge into how they operate and how they are propping up tech start-ups in the country.

E-commerce, FinTech and legal support are the most promising areas in Zimbabwe’s technology startup ecosystem. Golix, which is now flexing up into a commercial entity has just announced that it is expanding into South Africa where it hopes to tap into the large number of expat Zimbabweans who are battling to send money back home.

“There is growing interest in Bitcoin and we are excited about this as a company that wants to fit into this area. This has motivated our expansion strategy into South Africa. The bitcoin ATM has been doing well and there is rising interest in terms of volumes although the values are still low but we are excited,” said a customer care official at Golix on Thursday, 19 April 2018.


Cover image credit: Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. Wikimedia Commons