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Entrepreneur Interviews: Lovemore Mukono, co-founder of Mukonitronics (full Interview)

Lovemore MukonoRecently we had an interview with Lovemore Mukono, the co-founder and CEO of Mukonitronics. Mukonitronics is one of Africa’s leading power technology companies in terms of design and manufacturing industrial power electronic products for the local and export market. The range of Mukonitronics products include power electronics for mining, power generation and transmission, electricity distribution, telecommunications, railway and industrial automation.

In summary who is Lovemore Mukono?
Lovemore Mukono was born in Tanda, Makoni District in Eastern Zimbabwe. I am a technologist and entrepreneur, the only boy in a family of three children. My late mother is the inspiration behind most of what I do.

What drives you as an entrepreneur?
Competition drives my adrenalin. Looking back to my youthful days at Murindashaka, Dewerwi and Mount Maienje Primary Schools in Tanda and near Odzi respectively we used to go to school for one reason only; the get the number one spot. Today, that sense of competitiveness drives me. At first I was driven by the desire to surpass the achievements of my parents. The vision later changed to include everyone else in the Mukono dynasty. That too quickly changed to want to be the highest achieving wealth creator in Zimbabwe. Now, I am challenged by the achievements of the late Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and similar entrepreneurs in their class.

Can you tell us the story around the Mukonitronics founding? When and with whom? 
The death of my mother Mrs Lucia (nee Samanyanga) Mukonho in 1986 was devastating to me. I had made a promise to my parents. That promise had to be fulfilled. After college and attachment at ZESA, Hwange Power Station, I decided to resign from a very comfortable job to enter the private sector. There, I excelled too and soon I realised I possessed greater qualities. In 1990, together with Gift Mujeni at his house we decided to partner in the incorporation of Mukonitronics.

What was your vision founding Mukonitronics?
Strange as it may appear, my vision was clearly visible in my mind. I saw, in full colour a Mukonitronics that was the leading innovation centre in a post commodity based Zimbabwean economy. I saw the rise of a giant manufacturing company, producing many different products for local and export. I saw aeroplanes landing and taking off at Harare Airport every minute transporting foreign buyers of Mukonitronics products. I saw a Mukonitronics that was the first hope for jobs for Zimbabwean innovative engineers. I saw the birth of Africa’s technology renaissance.

What are the challenges you faced going into entrepreneurship in the relatively new Zimbabwe? 
Getting the new company accepted in the market, just ten years after independence was no walk in the park. At one point in 1991, I thought the decision to start the company was a bad one. Despite the innovative product, despite the foreign currency problems faced by industry, many clients still preferred to import their industrial automation components. This was so because we did not have a track record. No one was willing to have a locally designed and manufactured device with no big name track record or reference fitted onto their machinery. At that time it was much like producing a jet, park it at the airport and then ask passengers to board for a flight to London.  But, we successfully persuaded one client to try our product and soon, everyone wanted the M-Tron.

Mukonitronics has won awards locally for best exporter. Please shed more light?
Yes, we won the ZNCC Zimbabwe Exporter of the Year in 1998. We followed that up with a second runner-up spot in the Zimtrade, Zimbabwe Exporter of the year 1999. These developments were a culmination of a very successful export drive initiated in 1995 and with the cooperation of Zimtrade.

Tell us about popular M-Tron surge protectors.
Southern Africa has some of the most vicious lightning densities in the world. We commissioned a professional study and the results showed that the Southern Africa region, from Rwanda and DRC to South Africa were home to intense lightning incidents. The development of the personal computer and the incorporation of microprocessors in electronic design placed a demand for stable power.  Unfortunately, stable power is not part of what you find on most the grids in Africa. We therefore designed the M-Tron Surge Protector as a solution. The device protects sensitive electronic equipment from the devastation caused by lightning and induced power surges within the electrical transmission and distribution system.

Which products have done well for the company (both locally and internationally)?
Our power back up products – M-Tron Inverters and UPSs, our M-Tron Energy Savers (High Efficiency Compact Fluorescent Bulbs “CFL”) and our High Efficiency Fluorescent Light Fittings and Emergency Lights have proved to be most popular. The need for a strong back up power solution, using strong design to withstand the harsh African conditions cannot be over emphasized. Most clients have come to know that the gasoline generator is no panacea to the load-shedding prevalent in Africa today.  Besides damaging sensitive equipment owing to unstable power, the generator has proved a dangerous and costly operation in the long term.

Noise pollution, environmental carbon pollution, risk of fire and theft of fuel are just some of the negatives. Savvy clients are now finding solace in our heavy duty inverters. These can power loads as large as 250kilowatts. The M-Tron CFL is unique. Besides being a natural energy cost saving device, the M-Tron CFL is also uniquely interchangeable. This unique interchanging property means that clients can exchange damaged or expired M-Tron CFL tubes or ballasts with new ones at a cost that is less than buying a 100watt light bulb. We have achieved this by making the CFL component parts detachable from each other so that each can be replaced individually.

How did the economic chaos in Zimbabwe’s hyperinflationary decade affect Mukonitronics?
The period covering year 2000 to 2009 was a decade of blood baths for commerce, industry and the public in Zimbabwe. The lessons learnt are those we could never have studied for in any university. Fortunately, Mukonitronics remained focused on core business. We used this time to bolster our technology capacity, redesigning and upgrading our products and technologies.

We cut down on exports as we constantly incurred penalties on payments arriving after the 90day threshold. Local currency became so difficult to handle as a means to preserve value. We therefore resorted to barter trade wherever possible. Today, Mukonitronics emerges stronger and more agile to handle complex business and export transactions like never before. Thanks to the experiences of the tough times of the decade of blood baths.

Tell us about the new M-Tron florescent lighting innnovation that results in 80% energy savings.
We developed the M-Tron High Efficiency Fluorescent Lights in 1999 as it became clear that Zimbabwe and Southern Africa Power Pool (SAPP) would run out of surplus power in the interconnected grid. It became paramount therefore that efficient means of conserving the power available be made available as investment in power generation was not taking place.

The M-Tron High Efficiency Fluorescent Light Fitting is available in 2foot, 4foot and 5foot single and double tubes. It uses high efficiency electronic ballast to switch on and control power to the fluorescent tubes. The process results in the saving 80% power when contrasted with old technology magnetic ballast lamps. The new technology prolongs lamp life too.

Looking at the 21 years Mukonitronics has been in operation, what has made the journey so worthwhile for you as an entrepreneur?
The realisation that we belonged to the world and that the world was willing to reward any one that came forward to create value was most satisfying to us. Just travelling out there and seeing clients using your products and expressing satisfaction for having received value for money is truly a wonderful experience. This kept us going, realising that we were appreciated by those who consumed our products. The friendships made, the value and wealth created for shareholders and clients across borders is everything to die for.

You have been known to champion the need for Africans to not wait on the West for answers to our problems. To not wait on Aid. What opportunity do you think is there for Zimbabweans, Africans to look internally for answers?
Africa is the cradle of mankind. We gave birth to humanity. We designed and gave birth to civilization, language, science, mathematics… Africa is the origin of most of the technologies in use today. Something went wrong somewhere and I have not found out exactly when and what happened. But Africa has lost its leadership of the world, bequeathed to us by creation. Today Africa is at the tail end, the majority of its populations living miserable lives.

Africa can rise again, to lead mankind. We have wonderful people, wonderful culture and we need to think beyond the solicitation of aid. Africa is home to all the raw materials that build the first economies of the world. We need to share knowledge among us, to change our education into production oriented. We need to make things. Move away from aristocratic education models into technopreneurship education. Technopreneurship education model equips the population with technical skills as well as managerial skills. They have skills to produce technology products and to place a price on them. Aristocratic education models equips the population with managerial theory without technical skills. They must buy from technopreneurs and resell, and hence become predominantly consumer communities whose role is to be a market for technopreneurs.

What part do you think technology innovation and entrepreneurship will play in Africa’s success story?
Africa has no choice. The game has been defined already. Commodities and raw materials fetch less on the open market. In fact, the buyer determines the price. The only way out is to rise and take the bull by the horns. Africa must value add its raw materials and natural resources, because continued trade in these will never bring progress at home. Soon, these cheaply traded materials will run out, stock piled in Europe, Asia and Americas. By the time we wake up to compete, there will be no raw materials to use.

What deliberate steps need to be taken locally to foster a culture of technology innovation and entrepreneurship?
We need to redesign our education system to make it mandatory for all schools to teach technology, productivity, promote and reward innovation.

Our education system. Do you think there’s enough STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) training?
No, not at all. A lot still needs to be done to create the rise of a sophisticated Africa

You sit on the board of the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre. What role has SIRDC played in encouraging innovation technology locally?
SIRDC is the premium technology and innovation centre in Zimbabwe. If Zimbabwe is ever going to plant its flag on Mars, SIRDC will have something to do with that. SIRDC has developed technologies in support of food security, biofuels, renewable energies and a host of others. Under TIPS, SIRDC is training new technopreneurs to proliferate the technology enterprise in Zimbabwe.

Tell us about the Seta foundation.
SETA stands for Society for Engineering and Technology in Africa. We work to bring productive skills to schools, colleges, universities and organized youth groups.

Seta is the integration of theoretical science and mathematics education in colleges and schools into Practical Science education infused with the production of Scientific Equipment and the mentorship of technopreneurship to pupils and students at schools, colleges, universities and organized communities. The project attempts to thrust upon students and youths, live business issues where solutions must emanate from each one of them under supervision by seasoned Captains of Industry and Commerce. Students are exposed to all facets of engineering production and must innovate further in the production of Powerful Brands for sale in the local and export markets.

You will notice that the education system in Africa has remained a chalk and talk affair. It has no relevance to the application of knowledge in a practical and productive society. Africa produces consumer populations completely isolated from the production of goods and services. Thus, generational legacies of consumerism is rampant in Africa, hence the continent is seriously lagging in human development.

Seta Foundation seeks to reverse this and is providing practical productivity focused training in order to usher into the next generation, a sophisticated African capable of competing in technology productivity with the rest of mankind. Seta Foundation has established a team of specialist Trainers who have acquired the skills to teach the manufacture of high tech technology equipment and utilize the experience acquired at Mukonitronics. The Trainers provide mentorship to the students in design technologies, draughtsmanship, precision metal processing, plastics, electronics and business management.

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20 thoughts on “Entrepreneur Interviews: Lovemore Mukono, co-founder of Mukonitronics (full Interview)

  1. Agree with Mukono 10000000% here… “…We need to redesign our education system to make it mandatory for all schools to teach technology, productivity, promote and reward innovation….”

    One more question: Do they produce any Solar Electricity products?

    1. Yes indeed they do. Mukonitronics produce Heavy Duty Pure Sine Wave Solar Inverters, Charge Control systems as well as solar lights (in compact fluorescent design as well as in LED and 2foot T8 models). You can call them on Harare +263 4 757 951-2 / 759 442 – 4 or email them LGM@MUKONITRONICS.CO.ZW or visit to see some of the range of products.

  2. This is inspirational…..from a humble rural background to a successful business man…well done sir, wish u more success.

  3. Sir i dont know who you are but I can assure you you have just won the heart of a very humbled patriot living abroad! wow! what an inspirational interview! May God bless the work of your hands with more abundance and may you create more jobs for our people!

  4. Like how this guy is not in a sexy part of the tech market but he has managed to corner a market segment, focus and be successful. too much fads and talk out there. this guy walks it

  5. Please excuse me as I say this, This name SUCKS!!! Skwama has lost the lead ladies and gentleman the middle of the podium belongs to MUKONITRONICS! With all due respect and adoration for what this man and his company have achieved, I must say that the logic used to arrive to this name is the same logic used to name most Butcheries and Bottle stores!

    I think M-TRON is perfect or just “MUKONO” (it sounds japanese and its easy to pronounce) will compete better alongside other global brands! MUKONITRONICS? I have my doubts new consumers will be drawn to it!

    That said,  BRAVO!!! sir 

    “Africa must value add its raw materials and natural resources, because continued trade in these will never bring progress at home. Soon, these cheaply traded materials will run out, stock piled in Europe, Asia and Americas. By the time we wake up to compete, there will be no raw materials to use.”

    WELL SAID!!!

  6. What a shame Tafmak3000! You still think a business name should sound “japanese” or western to have new consumers drawn in. Tafmak3000, work up and see a truly Zimbabwean grown business complete for  top honours in the technology sector

    1. I think of myself as being more pan African than most people I know! When you sell products, you are selling them to a market not the ghosts of our fore fathers, therefore products and brabds must be acceptable to the market, Why do you think most Japanese vehicles have pronouncable if not english names as opossed to the Toyota Ysrswamaki! 

      How do you pronounce Huawei? or Hyundai? 

      …Well you pronounced it wrong… my point exactly! 

      Pan Africanism has little to do with brand names, race or black man wearing ties and delivering powerpoint presentations. It is about economic justice and the equatable consumption and control of world resources. Don’t be content with having leopard prints and Swahili terms rubbed in your face to keep you content and high on utopia while the financial and resources markets remain unchanged! Will it be rude if I perhaps ask you to wake up as well?

  7. Thank you for the update on this guy coz I was now wondering
    whether he is dead or alive. I tell you, I was inspired by this guy, once, and

    About 10 years ago, they, Mukonitronics wanted to start a
    company similar to DSTV, a satellite TV channel. They even said they would
    manufacture the set top boxes in Zimbabwe with the assistance of a company in
    Taiwan. Sadly that was the time of heightened politics and the project could
    not see the light of day.

    I kept the article that was in the Sunday Mail, and even the
    adverts, for years and years, only that the paper-clips were stolen, when the
    file it was in was stolen. I am happy for him, but at another level kind of sad
    because this is someone who could have set up something along the lines of
    Strive and Econet.

    I always asked at their ZITF exhibitions what happened to
    the project and this year or last year the Mukonitronics representative didn’t
    even know about it.

    It is rather sad because at that time, 2002, you needed Z$1
    billion just for a broadcasting licence and it was too much and even more than
    what you would need to set up a company like DSTV in South Africa, or even UK
    and the US. DSTV’s own licence was far cheaper than what Zimbabwe was asking
    from a citizen who wanted to start a broadcasting company. I can only imagine
    how many millions of US dollars flow to South Africa every month in DSTV
    subscriptions. This man could easily have been a billionaire in US dollar terms
    today and one of Africa’s richest men.

    If this guy had left Zimbabwe in 2002, and started his own Pay-TV
    channel in another country, he would have one himself a huge favour.

    All I now see and I have learnt from him, because of the
    chronicles of his life I see here and there, is that, sometimes you just waste
    opportunities and your life staying in a country that is not conducive to your
    dreams. Strive Masiyiwa started Econet in Botswana while he had a pending court
    case for Econet in Zimbabwe. He left for South Africa, and he wouldn’t be a
    billionaire today in Zimbabwe, no, and like hell he wouldn’t be.

    It is not just this guy.

    There is also Barnabas Sibanda who built the Zimcopter, the
    original helicopter in 1996. The retired air force man built it out of scrap
    metal. The Air Force of Zimbabwe later donated a scrap helicopter to him, in
    support. The same guy went on to build a bi-plane, two winged, with a Citroen engine
    and it flew, at least at the Zimbabwe International Trade fair. This guy built
    a far more advanced machine than the Daniel Chingoma joke of a helicopter.

    The last time I read about Barnabas Sibanda from Bulawayo,
    he was invading farms in Masvingo.

    In South Africa they have a company called Denel/Armscor.
    This company builds South African made and designed attack helicopters that fly
    and are sold internationally. They are now making remote-controlled unmanned
    aerial vehicles, right in South Africa.

    John F Kennedy once said “Ask what not what your country can
    do for you, but what you can do for your country”

    I say, “Ask what your country has ever done, or any country
    on the planet can do for you”

    Zimbabwe has got so much wasted potential.

    In the 10 years that have gone by, this Mukonitronics could
    now be employing about 1 000 people are more3, in the broadcasting field, and
    in the manufacturing sector.

    I hope he will leave Zimbabwe for USA and start that Pay-TV
    project there and create jobs for Americans, just like in the American Dream.

    I would rather he had built a technologically advanced
    company than sell surge protectors and plugs.


    Dear Mr Lovemore Mukono

    In Dubai, which is tax-free, you can start a broadcasting
    company cheaper than in Zimbabwe, if you still want to achieve your dreams. Zimbabweans
    in Zimbabwe will pay you US dollars in subscriptions an in Dubai there are no
    exchange controls. You will have access to international finance and your
    company will grow very fast. You will be a billionaire in no time, but at least
    a multimillionaire.

    1. Dear Mukoma Prosper,

      You are an inspiration. But, come to think of it, should we in Africa remain a success story only in foreign lands and leave the mother continent crying out for rescue? When is Harare Airport going to be Chek Lapkok Airport? When will this generation rise to create a Dubai or HongKong out of Murambinda? What generational legacy do we bequeath?

      Our own entrepreneurs to prosper at home and provide an inspiration to the younger generation. Everyone has a part to play in this. The current scenario, where yellow men from the East come into our domain to dominate us is truly unacceptable. And that is the reason some choose to stay put at home. Our entrepreneurs must succeed anywhere including at home. We should not think of leaving Zimbabwe every time we want to succeed. Otherwise we perpetuate the underdevelopment forever.

      Can you imagine that the current generation has failed to deliver even 1/100th of what the generations of  the 1800 delivered. The City of Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, KaRIBA etc were built by people who had no cellphones, no computers, no telephones, no electricity, no railways, no roads and no PHDs.

      We can do more…in this generation…


        This generation will have to work 48 hours in a day to
        recover what has been lost in the past decade through the older and eldest generations
        destroying what the previous generation has built and what this generation
        could have built. In fact, what has been lost can never be recovered for eternity.
        Right now, there are many people, graduates from, local universities, who were
        never employed in the past 10 years and are still not.

        Your parents’ pensions are now no longer existent. Ask yourself why your parents who could live on US$100 in
        1980 can no longer receive US$100 today, regardless of inflation. Right now
        some pensioners are getting US$0.20 (twenty cents) per month and even NSSA, a
        state-owned pension fund is paying pensioners peanuts, when our parents
        contributed amounts far much more than that in US dollar equivalent.


        My experience in Africa is that what one African builds,
        another African destroys. And I am telling you, there will be Africans, or a
        system set up by Africans, that will destroy what has already been built, even
        by you.

        If you want to build Murambinda into the next Silicon Valley,
        go right ahead and I promise you, some fellow African will devise a policy to
        destroy you, your work, and your dreams.

        The problem is policymakers who are dull, not moving with
        the times, backward, and satisfied with what the whiteman left and no more.

        The years 2002 -2010 in Zimbabwe saw the destruction of many
        works and gains going back to the 1800s. There are white farmers who invested
        everything they had and even grew their farming enterprises, but when the
        invasions came, everything they had built over decades was destroyed.

        Right now there are even buildings and companies in Bulawayo
        we hear are being invaded.

        It has taught me never to start a business employing many
        people in Zimbabwe and I advise many to do the same, if they don’t want to one
        day be invaded and have their assets taken from them and then see the business

        Personally, I will use technology rather than hire anyone wherever
        possible. If I need labour, I outsource from other countries. I can even ask
        questions on the net etc.  Why? Because I
        have learnt that national politics can mean some haters you hire can invade and
        take over your company. I will even rather teach myself what I need to know. I would
        rather contract labour outside Zimbabwe, or subcontract to a Zimbabwean
        company, no matter how small, even a sole trader.

        You can dream all your Bill Gates dreams but as long as the
        system and culture in the country does not support your dreams and ambitions,
        you are wasting your time.

        At one time ZISCO was the second biggest steel mill in Africa
        and where was it 2 years ago, and now?

        You do not destroy your own capacity so that you can bring
        in foreign investors from the east or West to buy what you have destroyed for a
        song. The destruction of ZISCO is ingrained in the business culture in Zimbabwe.

        Silicon Valley, and the United States, have a culture that
        is nothing akin to what you will find in Murambinda and Zimbabwe.

        Right now we have many people who support the secession of
        Bulawayo, Midlands, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South because they feel
        since 1980 the system has denied them the chance to achieve their dreams.

        In the United States, secession is unheard of and they talk
        of “THE AMERICAN DREAM” and not the “New york or Ohio Dream” And just what is
        the Zimbabwean dream? – money is only made in Harare.


        I tell people not to be myopic in their thinking and only
        think inside a box of reference called Zimbabwe. I tell people to think global
        and act global. From your bedroom you can do global business, act global, and
        behave global. If necessary, and Zimbabwe is not conducive to your success,

        I tell people to concern themselves with their own selves
        and their families. The government, like always, will do the rest. Sergey Brin was born in Russia, and he succeeded in the United
        States of America. Cecil John Rhodes made his money from South Africa,
        Zimbabwe, and Zambia, and not Britain in the name of so-called patriotism. In
        Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Warren Buffett’s textiles company (Berkshire) is there.
        Even Coca cola is in Zimbabwe making money.

        But if you feel that Zimbabwe is against your dreams and
        success by what it does rather than what it says, I say leave. Mark Zuckerberg
        left Harvard in Massachusetts for California to grow Facebook there.

        Many times politicians talk of stopping the brain drain to a
        point where you believe it is a conspiracy to enslave and violate the independence and freedom of the country’s intellectuals
        and smartest entrepreneurs.

        You cannot build YouTube in Zimbabwe, and neither could you
        have in 2005 around when it was started. (you would need a broadcasting licence for
        sure). The broadband was not there, and is sick right now. 2G is called 3G.

        You can’t say you will stop brain drain paying engineers ZW$2billion (US$0.001) a month compared to US$10 000 abroad, or even ZAR500 in South Africa. And then when the person wants to go into telecoms right in
        Zimbabwe, the licence fee you want is unheard of even by OECD standards.  Ask Daniel Shumba of TeleAccess, Strive Masiyiwa’s former partner whoo stayed in Zimbabwe. Where is he now?

        And even when you get it, there are price controls, in Zimbabwe
        dollars, that control how much you sell airtime for, apa inflation is like 5
        000 billion percent and you import equipment paid for in US dollars, forex which you
        will not get from the Reserve Bank because of the auction system and
        allocations of forex. And the regulators (POTRAZ) review those airtime prices
        every 12 months.

        How many times did economists and industry, as far back as
        2003, say let’s use the US dollar with politicians saying sovereignty first, in
        the name of patriotism and shaming the West. In the end we are now using the US
        dollar. If the US dollar had been adopted back then, we would have saved many industries
        and global market shares. Right now even our formerly world-renowned tobacco has
        no global market share.Life is too short to waste on dreaming big dreams for a
        country which policies you cannot influence. However, you have full control
        over your own life and decisions.Your own stomach and interests first, country next. No one
        can serve or work for the country on an empty stomach.

  8. I value what this guy has done. I have one of his old original surge protectors given as a present by a client a long time ago. It still works no problem, I have bought and discarded lots of claimed genuine surge protectors but all of them do not last. I think in this field he has done much and we should celebrate him for that. In life we have the privilege of choosing what to celebrate and dwell on and it makes sense and it is inspirational to chose to DWELL ON OUR SUCCESSES no failures or missed opportunities. We will be remembered for what we have done more than what we have not done.

    But you are really fired up and knowledgeable that I think you should be a big guy somewhere, I will google your name now to get some inspiration…

  9. I like motivational speakers. I have many friends who have gone that way and have so many books to date. I mean no discouragement but I am motivated much by those in the FIELD, the DOERS, the people MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKERS talk about.

  10. I am pleased to say i am not a motivational speaker, and also, i am happy to say i am not a motivational writer. In fact, i have strong reservations about this “motivation” business. My books are on business, entreprenurships, and business management. I mean no offense to anyone, just saying this should anybody ever think i am into motivational stuff never having read my work.

    I am also an entrepreneur. I just do not believe in talking about my projects with people. Rather, i spend most of my time on my projects because that is what will make me eat. if there should ever be a needfor my projects to be known, it will be by accident, and certinaly not out of choise. However, i do like to share my opinions and engage in meaninful and progressive discussions with like mided people and those who are smarter than me. I only follow this blog out of intellectual interest, and to see what Zimbabwean entrepeneurs are doing in the field of technology. I also believe in listeing to advice from all quarters including those who are not entreprenurs because i believe knowledge is not limited to just one particular kind of people e.g. entrepreneurs. I believe i can learn from a garbage man, or even s student with no big company to show, just as I can learn from Bill Gates.

    Thank you very much.

  11. Help me find a centre for Advanced technician Diploma in Telecommunications system with city and guilds.

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