Editorial Comment: Let’s shift focus to home-grown innovations

ZIMBABWEANS should come up with home-grown innovative solutions to the challenges facing the nation and mitigate the anguish caused by the illegal economic sanctions imposed by the West. Instead of extending begging bowls for aid to our Western development partners, the nation should come up with domestic remedies through technological innovation to spur growth and prosperity.

Examples are too numerous to mention of countries that are reaping benefits of home grown solutions, as part of a raft of initiatives they are employing to move their nations forward.

It is heartening to notice that Africa-led innovations are on the rise, at a fast pace, creating opportunities and home-grown solutions like never before.

It is against this background that we applaud the ongoing innovation by the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) which has developed Zimbabwe’s first prototype electric bus.

We are gratified by such innovation by NUST, because the researchers are looking into the future through innovations that focus on current problems.

Commuters across the country are struggling to access cheaper and affordable transport as the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) is still working on building its fleet to satisfactory levels.

A sharp increase in fuel prices has also seen a spike in kombi fares, leaving the ordinary commuters needing fair and reasonably priced transportation for daily usage.

Such innovation from NUST is what the country needs to move forward in light of a myriad of challenges weighing down the economy.

The nation is already pinning its hopes on such technology to improve the country’s public transport system.

The Government is currently burning the midnight oil to build a system that is affordable, convenient, reduces congestion and offers a transport system that is clean and affordable.

We need to rally behind the initiative by NUST and other similar efforts happening elsewhere in Zimbabwe so that we harness all these projects to boost our economy.

Apart from the positive spin-offs that innovators normally get, innovators the world over are lauded as a force for growth and development in developing nations.

That calls for a proactive approach to ensure that Zimbabwe joins the league of nations that are already benefiting from similar home grown initiatives.

We would be able to achieve as much — if funding, proper systems, policing, monitoring and evaluations are in place to support the home grown innovations.

However, experience has shown us that introducing technological innovation is one thing and developing a sustainable solution is a different story.

We do have many local innovation narratives, which looked promising, but sadly fizzled as days went by.

Many will remember with nostalgia of what should have been when William Gwata came up with the Gwatamatic sadza making machine.

This revolutionary invention automated the cooking of large quantities of sadza to a professional standard and consistency.

Considering the staple food’s proximity to the interest of local people, and the region at large, the technology could have put Zimbabwe on the regional map, if it had been pursued with vigour.

Sadly, Gwata’s dreams and aspirations came to nothing.

Another innovation of a helicopter prototype from a local, Daniel Chingoma, suffered the same fate.

Several other inventions have followed, but the nation has been slow to adapt and appreciate our local inventions and innovations.

There is a fascinating paradox of how Zimbabwe has the highest number of literate people and yet has low figures of innovators.

If we are then to progress with innovations, there is need for robust policies that safeguard, sustain and promote innovations across various fields.

We believe innovations should not be far-fetched and divorced from reality, but they should feed into the daily needs of the people.

Our country, which heavily relies on agriculture, needs thinkers and innovators to come up with solutions that enhance and sustain agricultural activities around smallholder farmers.

Innovators and players in the agriculture sector should pursue aspects such as block chain financing, crowd farming, precision agriculture, artificial intelligence, satellite and drone analytics, and other modern-based services.

Of course, in every revolution you will come across deserters and those who embrace the changes.

While several nations have been eager to promote innovations and technological advancements, we still have individuals who are paranoid about job losses.

The biggest issue here is not necessarily that these jobs would disappear completely, but the fact that polarisation of the labour force becomes more significant.

In order to complement innovations, people would need to acquire new skills in both their old and new occupations, to complement new innovations.

We believe that innovations will not be lost in translation because the country has a visionary leader in President Mnangagwa who is keen on home grown innovations to move the country forward.

Speaking at the recently held graduation ceremony at the Harare Institute of Technology, President Mnangagwa challenged learning institutions to become centres of economic revival, leveraging on technology.

He said it was important that Zimbabwe was not left out in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which has become central to economic growth in most parts of the world.

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