Zimbabwe aims to follow Ethiopia, Ghana and Rwanda in its dream to become one of Africa’s tech hubs ( a community informal or otherwise that fosters innovation for technology startup companies).
The economy of Zimbabwe has long been engineered by mining and agricultural activities, with a lead role for tobacco and cotton.
Quartz conducted a report weighing Zimbabwe’s chances to succeed on its mission. The role of telecom companies is considered as critical to the country’s bid to establish itself as a tech hub.
It identifies a number of investments in tech, done by large telecom, in an effort to enhance Zimbabwe’s data capacity and capability.
Econet, the leading telecommunications company in Zimbabwe, has spent up to $1.3 billion over the last decade to expand its 3G and LTE networks.
China has been playing a key role in Zimbabwe’s bid to re-imagine itself as a technological hub. The Chinese facial recognition technology will be deployed at entry points such as airports and border posts.
The Chinese are helping Zimbabwe to develop smart cities, starting with a pilot undertaking in Mutare, Eastern Highlands region.
However, Zimbabwe still has a long way to go. Average internet speeds in Zimbabwe appear to be moderate as the country is ranked eighth in Africa, with 2.49Mbps download speeds compared to Kenya and South Africa which have average download speeds of 9Mbps and South Africa 4.36Mbps respectively.
The cost of data in the country is high, especially when stacked against the country’s economic performance which is negated by low foreign direct investment inflows, a situation which can present hurdles for the country’s tech and smart city aspirations.
“ICT will be a potent vehicle for driving growth and development” Tami Mudzingwa, a director for the hackathon, told Quartz Africa via Twitter.
Mobile internet access is mostly through $1 daily data bundles for around 250MB and weekly limited social media bundles offered by operators. The Alliance for Affordable Internet says 1GB of mobile data “costs nearly 45% of a citizen’s average income”.