Zimbabwe’s tech startup ecosystem is young. Counting the startups that look like they’re onto something on the fingers of your hand is a sure way to realise that the human hands have too many fingers! Off the top of my head, if anyone ever asks, I keep going back to the same ones I see and interact with sometimes. Just a few. I realise as well that being inside, and on the ground, our view is often worm’s eye and not the bird’s.
Going through the findings of someone that’s looking at Harare from outside is therefore quite interesting. Nicolas Friederici, an academic from Oxford Institute spent some time in Harare at the end of last year, studying “the Inner Workings of African Tech Innovation Networks”. His findings are on their blog here.
Here are some takeaways I noted, for those too lazy to read through:
- Not too many startup enterprises exist in Harare. No surprises there really
- One huge constraint in Harare is the lack of skills (both technical and business) and mindset. Skill, yes. Mindset, not so sure.
- Hubs suddenly, hubs everywhere! Undeniably so, there was literally an explosion of the hub concept in Zimbabwe around the end of 2013. Almost a rush to be first at one point! Hub is ofcourse a very loose term but that includes Muzinda, Hypercube, Pitch Nights, Area46 (where Techzim is based – we’ve never thought of ourselves as being at a hub – more co-working space) and Skyhub.
- Despite the initial rush, most realise there’s bigger benefit by the ecosystem as a whole if everyone works together, and that there’s no competition actually. The more the merrier. No, seriously, the more people learning what works and what doesn’t the faster everyone moves to helping build viable internet/mobile businesses and build founders.
- No “hub” has figured it out and time will tell what model is most effective.