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ICT youth empowerment to create Zim next billionaires

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By Jacob Mutisi

Over the past decade, the tech space has taken the world by a storm with a stratospheric rise of the so-called “unicorns”. Unicorns are start-up companies which, within a short period of time or a couple of years, hit the magical USD$1 billion mark in valuation.

Let us put aside their staggering market value. What makes these companies truly remarkable is how, in a short span of time and with limited resources and zero headcount, they are able to disrupt long-established industries.  Recent examples are Whatsapp, Uber, Google, etc.

Take the time to look at your mobile phone’s home screen, and think about what industries they rendered obsolete!  There is no doubt that with these disruptive services, our private and professional lives have become more convenient, efficient and rewarding.

While this is happening worldwide, what about Zimbabwe’s public sector? While all these apps and information and communications technologies (ICTs) improvements in business have been a boon for most of us, what about our government, which has broader and more critical responsibilities than any single individual?

Despite an estimated 70% of Zimbabwe’s adults not having a bank account, and the majority of rural communities still lacking business and government infrastructure, we have been named by the World Bank’s Digital Economy for Africa Initiative as one of the strongest digital economies in the region.

Zimbabwe’s economy is projected to grow by 7,8% this year and will be the fastest growing economy in the region. Mobile subscription at approximately nine million users has also exceeded the country’s adult population. It is clear that both connectivity and ICT are key to making the government more inclusive.

Zimbabwe’s ICT is the only sector that can empower Zimbabwe youths. It is the only sector that can lead to self-employment during and after graduating. Zimbabwe has many economic challenges of which some can be solved by ICT solutions. For example Zimbabwe’s traffic light challenges, Zimbabwe Republic Police traffic offences ticketing system, City Councils billing systems, to name but a few.

The government now needs to focus on the role of youth in nation-building or development as it is  very important. This is because the development of any nation lies in future generations. Democracy, economy, technology and the improvement of technology, industrial, medical science, all lie in the hands of the youth.

At this stage and time where ICTs dominate as the problem solver of some of the nation’s challenges, the youth needs to take the leading role to bring about change in Zimbabwe’s society.

Zimbabwe’s young people are the nation’s largest resource in development. About 75% of our population is under 40 years. In countries like China, India, the US and Europe, young people who are given early access to ICTs tend to become early adopters and adapters of the technologies and skills valued for spurring innovation and economic growth.

Nowadays youths are at the forefront of societal transformation through ICTs because technology is what they have grown up with, what they know more about than their parents and what gives them the edge. With the Internet, young people have acquired a powerful new tool to connect, communicate, innovate and take action on things that matter to them on a scale that transcends their locality, making them global actors.

The time has come for the Zimbabwe’s government to now empower the youth and give a great opportunity to help solve the nation’s problems through ICT solutions.

  • Mutisi is the CEO of Hansole Investments (Pvt) Ltd and the current chairperson of Zimbabwe Information & Communication Technology, a division of Zimbabwe Institution for Engineers.