Two weeks ago, the DEMO Africa team was hosted by Hypercube innovation hub in Harare for the ongoing DEMO Africa Innovation tours across various countries in the continent. From the onset, Harare felt like Nairobi. Happily though, without the congestion, the crazy traffic jams and the numerous security alerts necessitated by the ongoing war on terror. However, beneath this calm, one couldn’t help to notice the simmering energy from entrepreneurs and innovators. Regrettably, this lot feels forgotten as the rest of the world loses itself in Zimbabwe’s politics.
From our interactions with this group, it’s clear that the start-ups in Zimbabwe feel that they have been left behind by other African countries, and it is this realization that is pumping the energy to place Zimbabwe on the African innovation map. The structures to support this are starting to emerge. Last year alone, two hubs were established; Muzinda Umzi and Hypercube.
Muzinda is more of an entrepreneurship hub than a tech hub as it supports any business idea that shows potential rather than those purely in the technology. It is funded by Higher Life Foundation, an NGO that has strong ties with Econet Wireless.
Hypercube Hub opened its doors to technology entrepreneurs mid last year and is headed by Munya Chuira, who is also the founder of GrowVC, a crowd sourcing venture capital firm based out of the US. Hypercube actually came into being after the founders won the tender to establish a hub in Harare. Hivos, Indigo Trust and the US Embassy currently support the Hypercube hub.
UNDP has also recently started collaboration and supporting some of the activities at hypercube. It is this kind of recognition and credibility building that is bringing startups and other entrepreneurs to the space. Just in the last two weeks, the hub has hosted both the DEMO Africa innovation Tour and the Startup Weekend Harare.
With these structures coming up and the support from both the government and international organizations including the likes of UNDP coupled with the energy, enthusiasm and talent among the entrepreneurs, Zimbabwe can be said to be at the cusp of an innovation boom. This year looks promising for start-ups in Zimbabwe and in the next two; we can only expect to see serious technology innovation contenders from Zimbabwe.
By Harry Hare | DemoAfrica Event Producer