Whatever happened to the Gwatamatic?

   

Imagine you are a bachelor coming home from another stressful day at work, just the thought of cooking supper definitely saps the last ounces of strength from your body. And looking at a rather tardy stove is enough for you to send a halfhearted plea to the heavens to conjure a miracle in the form of a ready cooked meal.

That packet of maize meal sits in the corner rather uncompromising and challenging you to transform it into the perfect pot of sadza/isitshwala/pap. Basically 90% of the time cooking sadza is hell!@#$!

So for some of you this is reality. But imagine and before this becomes a John Lennon song indulge me if you will, imagine if there was a handy machine, much like a microwave that could do all the sadza cooking for you?!? Bliss hey, indeed such a machine exists! And it’s not only culinary challenged bachelors who would leap with joy (yes I’m looking at you the new muroora/makoti).

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OK the current iteration of the sadza cooking machine is more industrial than domestic scale but as you and I know the trend in technology is miniaturisation. You do remember that computers in the 1960s filled entire rooms. The word mainframe certainly fit the bill. And if you thought that washing machines were always cute silver/white boxes that hummed charmingly in the laundry or bathroom, think again.

So back to the matter at hand or, more accurately, the issue simmering before us, we have been wondering, as I’m sure many techies have, where the magical Gwatamatic machine is? This revolutionary invention automated the cooking of large quantities of sadza to a professional standard and consistency. Our expectation is that for a machine that has been in existence since 1997, and given its unquestioned utility, surely by now like Bill Gates’ dream there should be a Gwatamatic on every desk and in every home. In Zimbabwe at least.

To get to the bottom of this Techzim caught up with scientist and inventor William Gwata. Our intention is to run a series on the man and his invention. Literally to give you a teardown of the man and machine. In this vein if there is sufficient material we would like to have a Techzim Inventors Series to explore and celebrate the curiosity and ingenuity of the Zimbabwean spirit.

Among the issues we intend to deal with is the potential of the Gwatamatic, for surely it is  not only limited to the formal catering industry or your kitchen. Think about places like Mereki or {insert name of your favourite tshisa nyama place}, or the typical family gathering or funeral kumusha/ekhaya; it never ceases to amaze me just how laborious the process of preparing meals on these occasions is. Ironically it’s the women folk, the supposedly weaker sex, that have to bear the brunt of the work.Surely a machine of the Gwatamatic’s utility would be welcomed with both arms.

After all technology is supposed to make our lives, to borrow an old advertising payline ‘simpler, better, faster’. I have a sneaky suspicion though, that if men where doing these chores the uptake of Gwata’s invention would have been dramatic!

We are big fans of Zimbabwean creativity and like some in public policy believe it’s important for us as a country to move from being consumers to being producers and manufacturers. Zimbabwe’s current Industrial Development Policy (link is a PDF) among other objective has the following noble one: “to restore the manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP of Zimbabwe from the current 15% to 30%.” Restore, being a key word.

Our hope is to see Zimbabwean and African products/brands make it to lists such as the Top 100 Global Brands. Surely Gwata’s product has a good shot at making it. We are not foolhardy because the reality is that in recent years the influx of cheap Chinese imports, power shortages, flight of technical skills, a culture of speculation and burning* among others, have all assaulted the art of manufacturing. But that’s actually a source of optimism and not despair. Great countries have always risen from the ashes of destruction. In modern times South Korean had the same GDP as Ghana in the 1960’s, yet in between the Korean’s have spawned Samsung and Hyundai who are on the Global Brands list, not to mention Daewoo, Kia Motors, LG Electronics etc.

So to help us put together the Techzim Inventors Series and specifically regarding the Gwatamatic please tweet us your questions and suggestions. Also post to our Facebook page what you would like to know about the inventor, the Gwatamatic or his business. Throw in suggestions of Zimbabwean inventors/inventions and areas that you would like the Techzim Inventors Series should feature. Thank you for your contributions!

 

Photo courtesy: Maï De Mulder

 

*Burning: a colloquial Zimbabwean term used to refer to currency trading transactions that where conducted during the period of hyperinflation. The transactions took advantage of arbitrage opportunities between the different rates of exchange in the market between the official/legal rate and the one available on the unofficial/black market.


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