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Are imported solutions for local problems a form of innovation?

Last Friday we managed to attend the Innovation Africa meetup and fireside chat held at Area 46 in Harare. As much as some of our readers would be happy to hear about another Saith “invention“, this event was just a preliminary educational interface for aspiring entrants and the startup ecosystem on what Innovation Africa is and the kind of expectations for the Innovation Price for Africa 2016.

The most interesting developments for me were sentiments that seem to point out that real inventions were a once-in-a-while occurrence and there is really nothing new under the sun.

Africa is still developing especially in terms of tech and a lot of what’s now considered ordinary in the first world would be a spectacle here. So the question was, when a startup brings in a solution implemented abroad, then tweaks and customises it to fit an African need, should that be considered innovation?

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For the argument: The process of identifying an actual problem and scaling an international solution downwards to a local solution requires some form of innovation, engineering improvement and technical expedition of sorts. One could argue that startups should be commended when they are able to put together or imitate conventional solutions and solve local problems (not necessarily reverse engineering or copying).

Against the argument: The comment from the guest speaker at the fireside chat, Pauline Mujawamariya (she is the IPA Program Director) stressed the limitation of this approach as “lacking scalability” as it can only be used in that small market. The idea of importing solutions leans more towards the idea that Africa cannot innovate or come up with its own solutions. The whole process does a lot to stifle the growth of would-be solutions.

Without necessarily reinventing the wheel there is applicability where one can say they used a solution developed by another company as a small component of overcoming a big problem in their surroundings. Where is the line however between how much of newness you brought into the old means? What is the real difference between say a guy who imports the body of a helicopter and puts in it a go-cart diff to power the rotors and one who, in fact, builds the whole thing locally but using a copied design? Both have copied certain aspects and both are solving the cost of building aircraft problems.

Where is the line between how much of newness you bring into the old means? What is the real difference between a guy who imports the body of a helicopter and puts in it a go-cart diff to power the rotors and one who, in fact, builds the whole thing locally but using a copied design? Both have copied certain aspects and both are solving the cost of building aircraft problems.

What worth is given a guy who changes the application of an open source platform used abroad to process orders at a fast-food restaurant and brings it to Zimbabwe to deploy at the Registrars, to process passports?

All these are aspects that are worth considering in the debate on African innovation.


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36 thoughts on “Are imported solutions for local problems a form of innovation?

  1. Its not even worth asking as a rhetorical question.

    Innovation is more of “how” it is done “better or different”

    Saith is all wind. Another Nhava

    Drop it already. We are clear on what it is and what is not.

    If he’s your pastor or preacher-brother or whatever, sorry but it doesnt fall under innovation.

    1. Guys I don’t even see how Saith has center stage here. We are discussing a genuine question on innovation actually dwelt on and was sort of left unanswered at IPA Friday.

      It would be more helpful if we could focus on the subject matter as this is a real question for some startups locally.

      1. Like macd said, your article refers to Saith in both pictures and text. We all agree Saith is wind and all this claim about invention or innovation is false… so why would you still reference it in the light of invention or innovation.

        Just leave it out. If anything, it perpetuates debate on how Saith is not what it gloriously claims to be…. unless if that’s your intention. But it’s a tired story, repeated all over again

        – diesel conjured from rock (spirit medium)
        – local laptop manufacturer(Nhava) and other “manufacturers”
        – now inventor and perpetual machine entrepreneur(Saith)

        Same script all over again. And TechZim(you) fell for it …. again.

  2. Victor ndipo number dzekwaunotenga dhobhu, caz whatever you are smoking is making you really inovative

  3. Guys I don’t even see how Saith has center stage here. We are discussing a genuine question on innovation actually dwelt on and was sort of left unanswered at IPA Friday.

    It would be more helpful if we could focus on the subject matter as this is a real question for some startups locally.

    1. You explicitly mention Saith, talk about importing/copying helicopters. And now you saying you don’t see how Saith has the center stage. The question though genuine is being overshadowed by your persistent reference to Saith.

    2. “What worth is given a guy who changes the application of an open source platform used abroad to process orders at a fast-food restaurant and brings it to Zimbabwe to deploy at the Registrars, to process passports?” Really what are you smoking dude?

      1. I don’t see anything wrong with this, as long as the application is customized for passport processing. Remember when you are coding, the core of your system should be as generic as possible and the end points more specific to the problem at hand. If they took the core system and customized end points, nothing is wrong here. Maybe there is something I’m not getting here, could you share more details on the implementation

  4. So why are you using pictures you took from Saith event?

    If you did attend the event, why didnt you use pictures of Innovation Africa??

    Victor Blueprints from God Mukandatsama have done it again!!

  5. For me innovation is implementing something in a different manner that fits the local conditions. For example, there is techcrunch and we have you techzim. One could argue, you are a techcrunch copy. Yes, you both have the same concept, but you have customized techzim for the local market. As for Saith, I know they have been attacked a lot, but from what I gather, they copied the design of a Chinese made helicopter, then implemented it using various local and imported parts. A lot of people are attacking them without a full understanding of what they have done. As for them stating they have broken laws of physics e.t.c, true scientists should only argue against his claims after they have been fully made available to the public, after all in A-Level Physics, we are taught to question all these laws and theories

    1. Do not even go there about breaking law of physics, thats a 100% scam they are trying to play.

      Which local companies manufactured parts for him, jus one??

      1. If I may ask, why do you say it’s a scam? Is your opinion based on the scientific evidence available or on personal belief? Are you an expert in the field of microsonic energy devices? Note, I’m not saying his claims are genuine, but let’s wait for the documentation which he has promised to unvail, then we can judge from there.

        On the issue of local parts, from what I remember of his interview, to start with, the bolts are from Mica Hardware, the carpet from Carpet World, some aluminium parts from some company in G-Side. The carbon fibre was imported but they cut it themselves. The finish is testament to this, it’s not smooth. I encourage you watch his interview on youtube. I think most people here are dismissing his claims on personal belief rather than on pure evidence

        1. A fool is someone who fall into the same pit again and again!

          Diesel from rocks led by our one and only scientist…

          Gold raining from skies witnessed by ….

          Instant weight lose…

          Seeding money buying Bentleys….

          Nhava laptops being manufactured local…

          Brodacom using spiritual base technology

          People eating snakes…

          Church built on weak foundation then collapse and kill lots….

          Miracle children from mothers without pregnance..

          The list is endless, just pick what suites you!

          1. Sorry man, I don’t get your argument. I’m not even a religious person. All I’m asking is for people to argue against Saith on facts. I mean, the guy is an F2 dropout yet he does not show emotional attachment to his argument as most of these comments portray

            1. Im not religious as well bt thats what makes what is today. People just make ridiculous claims and masses dancing around promises.

              Did you ever asked why the gut is being bankrolled by church big names?

      1. In A-Level Physics and at university, are we not asked to question these premises? At one time Kekule’s Benzene structure was widely accepted. Was it correct? No, it only held until the new structure was proved. All I’m saying is, dispute the claims on evidence available. As of now, they haven’t released any documentation

        1. There is a place for everything, we should create a subdomain where Victor can freely post his illusions and those who like them can go there

  6. after all the comments made in the past techzim must have learnt no one want to hear about this trash, saith is bottled smoke

  7. Faith is “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.”
    Vikela has faith in Saith. Every on of his article is an ode to Saith.
    He has his reasons, whatever they are (dude gotta eat right?).

    Maybe tag those Saithish articles (oh wait, author name is there.) so we can filter out such fluff.

    Subdomain Suggestions:
    pentecostal.techzim.co.zw – so that we separate the miracles from techstuff
    bogus.techzim.co.zw – for helicopter, drone, diesel rock and other bogus stories

  8. @ faith, i like that, we shud seperate tech stuff and trash: nhava saith, diesel from the rock, raining gold, miracle money or techzim must stop technews and start covering magaya makandiwa and all such who say things that can not be proved or come to pass

  9. We should move away from the Saith national shame fable. No ref to be made by Mr Victor.

    Thank you

  10. One person once told me that if you are an innovator know that the really innovation will come out from the users of your innovation. using this understanding you will realise that most of the innovation we see in Zim are no innovation, for example how many people have seen it fly or boarded the Saith Helicopter or how many people have used some of the innovations that we hear in Zim. The majority of innovations in Zim I hear they only exist at pitching events and in newspapers without any users using them and thats the problem that I have with our innovators. Instead of taking their innovations to the users they rush to the newspapers……

  11. Completely off topic here. For once I did not read the article. Went straight to the comments for my morning humor before i kick the morning off. What can I say.

  12. Guys Did you know that Albert Einstein was drop out at school. Because the way he thinks was contrary to the existing laws of physics. I heard one time he was asked about the speed of vehicle and he calculated the same speed using how the speed of the planet earth. His answer was marked wrong yet it was true if the teacher only knew that the earth also revolves in solar system. So many have attacked Maxwell without realizing that it is the same way how other inventors have gone through.

  13. innovator, inventor, innovation all have but one common phrase “first time”
    first time where is the question?
    What we have here is a person who have brought electric cars, drones and gyros (items originally invented outside our country) these are new things on record “first time” in Zimbabwe then we must severely criticise in return?

    Lets shift our attention further to South Africa, does anyone of you know that one of the world’s best supercar is a Jaguar XJ220 and was designed by an African in Capetown? Google,Bing,Ask it?
    Did he copy it from somewhere?

    To touch bases, constructive critism is always appreacited this is one major facet needed by inventors, innovators etc that is the catalyst.

    Mr Victor Mukandatsama no doubt Saith’s credibility has to be tested somehow. Im sure you have got his contacts emails etc if you dont mind emailing them to me (ntsnelk@gmail.com)
    I know a lot of people like Saith who are still hiding due to discouradgement. He can help by reaching out to them, he knows better how he fitted brushless motors on his drones and how he calibrated, the sequency of lithium batteries and etc.

    Above the biggest room we have is for improvement

  14. innovator, inventor, innovation all have but one common phrase “first time”
    first time where is the question?
    What we have here is a person who have brought electric cars, drones and gyros (items originally invented outside our country) these are new things on record “first time” in Zimbabwe then we must severely criticise in return?

    Lets shift our attention further to South Africa, does anyone of you know that one of the world’s best supercar is a Jaguar XJ220 and was designed by an African in Capetown? Google,Bing,Ask it?
    Did he copy it from somewhere?

    To touch bases, constructive critism is always appreacited this is one major facet needed by inventors, innovators etc that is the catalyst.

    Mr Victor Mukandatsama no doubt Saith’s credibility has to be tested somehow. Im sure you have got his contacts emails etc if you dont mind emailing them to me (ntsnelk@gmail.com)
    I know a lot of people like Saith who are still hiding due to discouradgement. He can help by reaching out to them, he knows better how he fitted brushless motors on his drones and how he calibrated, the sequency of lithium batteries and etc.

    Above the biggest room we have is for improvement!!

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