Zimbabwe is not ready to take full advantage of what AI has to offer

Leonard Sengere Avatar

We have been talking about AI extensively lately, and it appears that we will be exploring the topic even more in the coming months. Strive Masiyiwa’s assertion that AI could have a magnitude of impact comparable to the Industrial Revolution means we can’t help but dig more into it.

It was with this understanding that I made my way to a Unicaf-organised event which asked a simple question: is Zimbabwe AI-ready?

Many people now understand that AI is a big deal. It does appear as if it will substantially change the world as we know it. That’s almost certain. What’s not guaranteed is that everyone will benefit from this progress.

Even Strive Masiyiwa in his interview with James Manyika stressed that Zimbabwe has to participate rather than just consume. There is a real danger we will be left behind.

So, what does it mean to be AI-ready?

It simply means being in a position to benefit from the progress that AI is set to/already bringing.

At the event, the question arose about Zimbabwe’s AI-readiness, addressed to both the panellists and the audience. At the beginning of the session, an informal vote was taken, and the majority responded negatively. They believed that Zimbabwe was not prepared.

Following a comprehensive discussion of the topic, the number of individuals convinced of Zimbabwe’s readiness decreased even further.

Now, it is important to stress that when people say Zimbabwe is not ready, they do not mean that no one is/will benefit from AI in the country. They mean that many/if not most people are nowhere near taking advantage of what AI has to offer.

Who were these people saying Zimbabwe is not ready?

On the panel were the CEO of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Econet’s Digital Innovations Manager, an Old Mutual Digital Services InsureTech Product Manager, an Arrupe Jesuit University lecturer and a senior specialists consultant with the Business Intelligence MedScheme Holdings. The facilitator was Ruvheneko Parirenyatwa.

A sad infrastructure story

They raised more or less the points that many have been raising for a while. We need access to computers and more importantly, the internet, to fully utilise AI. Unfortunately, we live in a country where, according to the latest Potraz ICT sector report;

  • the internet penetration rate is 65.2%
  • the mobile penetration rate stands at 91.9% however,
  • the last ICT Access by Households and Individuals report by ZimStat and Potraz shows that only 58.8% of households have smartphones
  • only 14.2% of the population has a computer according to the same report

A significant number of Zimbabweans do not have the devices or internet access to use AI. Most of those who do have devices only have smartphones.

If you then consider that only 53% of Zimbabwean households have access to electricity, you see just how dire the situation is. How are these people supposed to enjoy the benefits of AI when they have feature phones and no electricity?

I think they can still enjoy some benefits from AI without them using the technology themselves. If the government and the private sector utilise AI to improve efficiency and lower costs, this could lead to cheaper goods and better service delivery even in rural areas.

That’s the best-case scenario but it still does not compare to them utilising AI for their own purposes, which would be ideal.

The Old Mutual example

Nyandoro, the Old Mutual Digital Services InsureTech Product Manager gave us an example of how they were able to reduce man-hours in one department by 92%. This was repetitive work which AI does way better than humans.

So we can see how some companies and individuals will benefit. This Old Mutual efficiency gains will lead to job losses but the best-case scenario is that this reduction in costs could lead to price revisions which would benefit many people.

What do you think though? Could you say Zimbabwe is ready to take advantage of what AI has to offer? If not, what do you think needs to be done to get us ready? The better question is HOW could Zimbabwe prepare for AI?

Also read:

A specialised AI to help find every word spoken by any politician on any topic

Using AI to tailor pricing to individuals, devise advertising strategies and more

Here’s what Zimbabwe’s internet usage looks like, everything from capacity to consumption


What’s your take?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Danny C Zinyengere

    Infrastructure is key in AI – especially provision of power (ZESA), which can be aliveiated by other means of power provision. Cost of substitute power sources is still beyond reach. If Zim has to make a foot print in this regard government has to to seriously the underlying inhibitors and show commitment.

  2. Yout

    The government is not ready….it’s busy chasing after the opposition

  3. Zimbo

    The government is not ready….it’s busy chasing after the opposition……this does not mean we the people are not ready….the government and the will of the people are different

    1. B

      @zimbo You are wrong AI can be disrupted by government, government disrupts everything if it has no control

  4. Fanuel

    Internet providers like econet, netone et al should improve on internet, also telone and zol add more acces points for your wifi, with all I highlighted above it shows that we are not prepared

  5. Margaret Chiponda

    True Zimbabwe is not ready. Our Internet connection is terrible and on top of that we have load shedding.

  6. Robert Ndlovu

    POTRAZ and the Ministry if ICT must expedite Starlink license like yesterday. It’s now there in Mozambique, Malawi , Zambia.

    Of course the regulator came out threatening those who were using it without their approval.

    I have a plot deep in Mat North no signal no radio no nothing. Mobile operators are not interested in areas with low ARPU.

    So we will import the kits if you do not allow Starlink to land.

    You can’t stop such disruptive technologies. We have seen it with voip .

  7. B

    If Our governmental Protraz accepted SpaceX’s Starlink AI would be in our hands as the amecans ,but our government does not care about individual innovations ,they care governmental innovations and which are not speedy at all

  8. B

    Zambia and our neighbors are speeding their technologies in all sectors through AI because they accepted Starlink ,and here we are behind by far

    1. Anonymous

      We are poised to take up AI very fast and surpass some under stated expectations within the next few months if we upgrade our systems and the economy generally improves

      1. Jesus

        Zimbabwe economy will not improve for another 50plus years. What are u smoking. We will be left behind thats what always happens thats the the Zimbabwean story

  9. Chenjerai Masuka

    Our internet system is still weak to carry the burden of AI, if our internet is a challenge in major cities industries where production is expected to be at it’s maximum using all cost effective innovations what of a food processing plant at Mutoko rural or Amarula plant at the centre of beyond. Zim needs to address first things first.

  10. Tanaka Chinengundu

    For Zim to be AI ready what we mostly need is to digitize a lot of processes and information
    Its 2023 Almost 2024 and majority of Zim businesses still use pan and paper

    Its easy to develop AI powered systems locally all that is needed is access to a lot of information since AI is data driven

    We just dont have enough data to start talking of building our own GPT or generative AI

  11. 🧐 🤔 🤨 🙄

    I think we should start small, I remember a quatamatic sadza cooking device that never took of well but that alone can be achieved at household level, then we go on to cars from parking lot or garages just at the simple tap of your phone a car can sat. nav to were you are, all at the tap of a phone before we can get to the really Google world and or star link cause we lack approved software developers that really get certified to operate higher levels of first worlds
    But locally, Bluetooth LAN areal networking can be achievable
    We talk of a radius of its effectiveness to be well less that a 100 metred
    Before we invoke service providers for a broader range that’s bit more costly to their part and the equipment that get updated before the grasp the kindergarten ones

  12. Morphius

    I believe some individuals/companies can take advantages of AI and use it to their benefit. It will be foolhardy to think that something like AI can be embraced countrywide. Here it is mentioned that Old Mutual is already taking advantage of AI and l am sure companies like Econet are doing the same. There are companies already using it and hopefully the effects wil cascade to the General populace. Our economy needs to normalize and this is mainly due to political issues as currently none of it makes sense in terms of economic fundamentals given the infrastructure and the resourses at our disposal. Only then can an issue like is Zimbabwe ready for AI be addressed.

  13. Ct

    Zim gvnt officials are only prepared for looting contry’s resources for their selfish gain not these dresms of AI. We will go a long way before we get the posetive effects of AI.

  14. Blessing

    I just came here to correct a few things.
    1. AI models can run without internet connection after they have been configured. Infact, most models are designed to operate offline.
    2. Yes , AI models require power to run.but power source is not only limited to Electricity , gladly alternative power supplies like batteries , generators and solar can do.

    Our lack of readiness could be due to lack of knowledge and understanding how these models function.
    I hope i did not offend anyone.

  15. GF

    What’s the use in AI if companies here can’t make useful digital services?

    It’s not a silver bullet you can just sprinkle in and achieve “digital transformation”. Once we have decent digital services(or a good vision for it) we can talk about what AI can add.

    1. Tendayi

      Artificial Intelligence is nothing more than the capacity to learn and master topics like Data Science, Machine Learning, Neural Networks, Deep Learning, Python, and perhaps how to use TensorFlow.JS for machine learning in JavaScript. It’s a great choice for those looking to gain practical experience in AI, and platforms like Google do offer courses that cover the basics of Google AI and web-based machine learning for those interested. Of course, the cost of data in Zimbabwe is inhibiting to an extent, but it is worth noting as Blessing mentioned above, that one can download ML programs and run these AI models offline. And to think that someone in the government will ever think of initiating anything on AI is a far cry in my honest opinion.

2023 © Techzim All rights reserved. Hosted By Cloud Unboxed