Zimbabwe Fosters ICT Innovation
Columnist Kudzai Mubaiwa notes the importance of developing approaches to innovation that are locally relevant. He considers learning from best practices in European, American and other African countries useful, but says the “copy and paste approach” is a mistake. Based on his experiences at start-up conferences and tours including with the National Business Incubator Association and Global Innovation Gathering, he discusses various approaches’ relevance in Zimbabwe: technology hubs; co-working spaces; business incubators and accelerators; and makerspaces, hackerspaces and labs.
Technology hubs focus on ideas related to technological innovation and often feature hackathons. Many technology hubs also focus on student-led start-ups. There are different types of technology hubs, some of which have in-house experts to help innovators and others which focus specifically on solving community problems. Examples include iHub and Dev School in Kenya, which teach young people to code as well as Neolab, and Muzinda Hub in Zimbabwe.
Co-working spaces generally provide office space for start-ups, complete with conference rooms suited for major start-up events and meetings. Local examples include Hypercube and Area 46.
Young companies must be admitted to business incubators and accelerators, which aim at commercializing such entrepreneurial endeavors. In Zimbabwe, organizations like Emerging Ideas and Stimulus Hub fit this category.
Makerspaces, hackerspaces and labs focus on hands-on creation. This often involves taking things apart and building them into something new, such as building a 3D printer from e-waste, something that a Kenyan innovator recently proposed at the Global Innovation Gathering. Mubaiwa notes the need in Zimbabwe for these kinds of spaces.
Mabaiwa underscores the key role these kinds of innovation spaces can play in economic development. He emphasizes that even small spaces, such as churches or garages are suitable for these kinds of projects . “Indeed, it is such “small” efforts that, if conducted at local levels, by locals; build the nation from the bottom up.”
Source: Kudzai Mubaiwa, The Herald, Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media