What will it take to start a digital entrepreneurship revolution in Zimbabwe? The pieces of the puzzle all seem to be lying on the table, but we still haven’t had that boom of local technology centred entrepreneurship.
When you look at rising internet access, the adoption of crucial enablers like e-commerce, free access to online tools and resources through initiatives like Econet Zero and the availability of resource and knowledge centres; the environment is giving enough hints to anyone keen that the opportunity is there, please grab it.
I guess this is the point where the hubs are supposed to come in. To offer some sort of guidance and acceleration to the few-and-far-between cases of startup entrepreneurship that this country has witnessed and pass on any winning formula to the many that want to follow that path.
The last time we took a look at the makeup of the four (there are now five including co-working space Area 46) tech hubs to spring up in Zimbabwe since 2013, there was general feeling that each of these centres was figuring out its space in the local “ecosystem”.
Now we are in 2015, and a lot of that has changed. Looking at Muzinda Hub, its focus was narrowed to skills development aimed at the rising demands in the digital economy. For good measure, this just doesn’t end with tech only.
Entrepreneurship is also taught which dovetails with the hub’s focus on empowerment. All this has been captured in a digital skills and entrepreneurship programme that Muzinda Hub kicked off in November last year.
Through a nationwide road show that had stopovers at different tertiary institutions, as well as a social media drive, interested candidates were invited to sign up for the free course which lasts between thee and six months.
A total of 1,000 candidates responded and all of them were accepted as the first group of what will be a continuous skills impartation exercise. It turned out that most applicants were recent college graduates that haven’t secured formal employment.
So far, 600 out of the 1,000 applicants have entered the programme in different cohorts and they will follow through until they complete the necessary training.
The programme covers core digital skills in line with software development as well as principles of entrepreneurship. The digital skills component is conducted with resources that Muzinda Hub is acquiring for each participant from the online interactive education platform Treehouse.
Each participant goes through at least one of the Treehouse tracks, which are guided paths for specific digital disciplines that include Front End Web Development, iOS Development. Android Development, PHP, Python, Ruby and WordPress.
Muzinda Hub opened this programme to people from all walks of life which has created an opportunity for some participants to fulfil the minimum 20 hour week requirement from remote locations, provided they have internet access. As a result, some participants are formally employed individuals that commit to the programme in their own time.
Interestingly enough, a large number of participants have been individuals who did not have any tech acumen before starting the programme.
When I visited the Muzinda Hub and training centre (It is located at the Higher Life Foundation offices in Vainona, Harare) there were several students plugged into the various workstations that have been made available for the programme.
Muzinda Hub has made a commitment to securing some internships for the participants in various organisations, something that is meant to add an element of practical experience to the entire course. This is not necessarily going to be with Econet Wireless or its group of companies even though Muzinda Hub shares some obvious ties to the mobile network.
According to Tawanda Kembo, one of the coordinators from Muzinda Hub, these internships will better equip the students for employment opportunities, something that Muzinda is also trying to address with this initiative.
Kembo also pointed out that entrepreneurship is a huge focus for Muzinda Hub and they would love to see some of the students churn out credible tech startup solutions that solve problems using the skills they pick up from the programme.
Will we have thousands of tech entrepreneurs and startups from this every year? That might not necessarily be the outcome here. It certainly doesn’t seem to be the short term goal as well.
There’s a lot to entrepreneurship that involves capacity building and it is in preparing Africa’s new generation for the digital age that this programme earns merit.
Then again, this initiative should go a long way in creating an ecosystem of people ready to deliver solutions through digital tools. It will be even better if they can create one or 1,000 working businesses from it all.