Zimbabwe is looking to capitalise on Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions that are emerging and will roll out projects and programmes aimed at improving healthcare, education, access to finance through FinTech and agriculture. This comes after the Southern Afrikan country's government entered into an agreement with a Chinese company, CloudWalk Technology, to roll out facial recognition technology.

Supa Mandiwanzira, Zimbabwe's Minister of ICT, said on Thursday that AI can “help people live better lives” and make tasks easier, thereby improving efficiencies and delivery timeframes. Mandiwanzira added that it was key for Zimbabwe to immediately grasp the emerging technological aspects of AI as “the future of human civilisation will depend” on it.

However, AI would also bring disruption to the country’s economy although other experts say the benefits outweigh the negatives.

“AI yields positive impacts including cost reduction but also has negative impacts such as job losses,” said Mandiwanzira.

Friends from Guangzhou

Zimbabwe has often leaned on China for its technological needs. Chinese companies have been investing and upgrading networks for the country’s state owned telecommucations companies. Further to that, we can now add CloudWalk Technology which reported that it has signed a cooperation agreement with Zimbabwe for a mass facial recognition project. The agreement is said to have been arranged under the recommendation of the Guangzhou government in China.

“AI yields positive impacts including cost reduction but also has negative impacts such as job losses,” Supa Mandiwanzira, Minister of ICT

"The Zimbabwean government did not come to Guangzhou purely for AI or facial ID technology, rather it had a comprehensive package plan for such areas as infrastructure, technology and biology," said Yao Zhiqiang, strategic director of CloudWalk's research and development center. With the knowledge that Chinese facial ID technology has made rapid progress over recent years, the Zimbabwean government hopes to introduce it to the country to help accelerate its modernization by partnering with leading Chinese enterprises in the IT sector," said Mandiwanzira.

Money problems

Zimbabwe’s bid to embrace the latest technological platforms however is not without its own hurdles. The country is suffering from crippling foreign currency shortages which have seen the country fail to pay for key imports on time.

This was expected to affect reconnection program for fixed phone and Internet Service Provider, [TelOne] (https://www.iAfrikan.com/tag/telone) whose services were disrupted after cables and other network equipment was stolen. The state owned company will require foreign currency – which is in acute short supply in Zimbabwe – to buy replacement equipment and cabling.

"The service disruption is worsened by the shortage in foreign currency which delays the importation of the much-needed equipment and network elements," said the company during the week.

Zimbabwe has made strides in its ICT sector and this is reflected in a higher Internet penetration rate of about 50% of which mobile internet is dominant.

Businesses and consumers in the country have embraced e-commerce and digital payments although the central bank, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, has set the country back after it banned banks from processing payments and other transactions involving cryptocurrencies.