Kudzanai Gerede Recently in Nairobi, Kenya
Zimbabwe recently launched its Information Communications Technology (ICT) policy and Innovation Drive meant to empower young innovators, as a precursor to its long envisioned digital socio-economic future.
With the country’s ICTs development steadily improving buoyed by inroads in tech gadgets accessibility and Internet penetration rate now at 50 percent from lows of 11 percent in 2010, a lot still needs to be done with special bias to innovative entrepreneurial startups to emerge amongst the elite ICTs hubs on the continent.
The policy will give institutional and legal guidance for the development of the ICTs sector and has widely been applauded for its flexibility for further restructuring in line with the ever changing technological developments.
Already, Zimbabwe is placed 12th on the ICT development in Africa index report released in November 2017 by the International Telecommunications Union despite still battling challenges with universal geographic network coverage, high data costs and yawing infrastructure bottlenecks.
To address some of these challenges, Zimbabwe and its southern African neighbours cannot afford to go it alone, but to derive lessons from the East African counterparts in developing the growth of the ICTs sector.
Despite the region experiencing unique challenges of its own, the East Africa Community (EAC) has managed to develop a robust ICT industry with Kenya playing a much more leading role, as the East African giant plays second fiddle only to Nigeria with the highest number of internet users in Africa. The East Africa-One-Network-Area, a joint commitment to create one network area for five economies of the EAC which are; Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda has led to traffic surging by over 800 percent since its establishment in 2014 with benefits of this arrangement also extending to South Sudan.
This has helped counter high roaming charges and surcharges on incoming international traffic on one end while enhancing regional integration, reducing cost of doing business as well as increase revenue to operators and Governments on the other end.
This model of unfettered penetration to regional markets has for instance seen M-Pesa, a mobile money platform owned by Safaricom, Kenya’s largest mobile phone service provider able to receive and send money from 19 African countries and beyond for its close to 20 million users. This is one aspect local players such as Ecocash, Telecash and One Wallet despite their success domestically are still lagging behind on the region platform.
Doing business has never been this convenient in East Africa thanks to this integration that has immensely boosted intra-regional trade by offering ease of settling international payments for emerging businesses within the region.
Founder and CEO of African Summit on Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ASENTI) Calvin Jodisi, in an interview with Post Business explained the unique role ICTs are playing in the acceleration of economic development, particularly in enhancing small and medium enterprises and innovative startups by young people in Kenya.
“ICTs have and will continue to change the way we do business because they are the future. They have become economic enablers with an entire ecosystem creating employment opportunities, efficiency in business and unfettered access to markets,” said Jodisi.
He said statistics show that the highest traffic in connectivity for Nairobi is between 3 am and 5 am as small business players will be making orders to suppliers and buyers of goods before sunrise, a feat that has completely changed business dynamics for the better.
But for this part of the continent, strides gained in the telecoms industry are just the beginning of great things to come; young innovators with sector-tailor-made startups are gaining recognition across the globe.
More and more global tech companies are pursuing investment interests in innovative startups across East Africa with Kenya alone having raised $ 47.4 million in 2016, according to Disrupt Africa.