University student and technology enthusiast Takunda Chingonzo says the invitation to participate in President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) had an immediate impact on his work.
“(The invitation) immediately changed my perspective and accelerated our plans to liberate the internet, everything suddenly became decisively serious,” says Takunda.
Takunda is the co-founder of Neolab Technology, a multi award-winning startup working on pioneering technology fit for emerging economies. He is also the co-founder of Saisai Wireless, a startup that offers “free” WiFi for the public by deploying hotspots in public transportation, and Neoeffect, a social enterprise that trains entrepreneurs and increases IT literacy for the underprivileged.
During his time as a YALI Washington Fellow, Takunda will attend classes at the University of Notre Dame, located in South Bend, Indiana.
As a participant in the business and entrepreneurship track of the fellowship, he says he hopes to learn the mechanics behind funding start-ups and attracting capital.
“I hope to learn how to establish sustainable social ventures that do not rely on donor funding. My entire journey over the next few weeks will revolve around understanding first world start-up ecosystems, how they grew, how they operate and how they utilize rapid idea validation.”
After completing his coursework, he will spend an additional eight weeks interning at Africa Venture Partners, a private investment and strategic management company based in Berkeley, California that focuses exclusively on Africa.
Takunda is a firm believer that start-ups can be the catalyst that is needed for Zimbabwe’s economic turnaround. “Their ability to churn out disruptive innovation that revolutionises industry will bring about the solution that we need,” he argues. “We are our own solution to the problems that plague us as a nation, challenges in technological advancement and the issues of unemployment.”
He is practical and hopes to rapidly expand his venture’s social programs under NeoEffect.
Neoeffect aims to promote the emergence and growth of student run enterprises in Zimbabwe’s tertiary institutions. Examples include BOOT Africa, which is already operational at the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo.
His venture’s first start-up, Neolab Technology (www.neolab.co.zw) actively works with and recruits from tertiary institutions, spurring innovation by implementing hybrid business models that allow students to effectively take part in the development and deployment of ICT products.
His work with Saisai revolves around the same ethic. “We are creating the #UbuntuNetwork, to bridge the digital divide, by redistributing access to the internet and getting everyone online,” says Takunda. He forecasts that Saisai is going to become a gateway for local developers, content creators and curators, to reach their targeted consumers.
Takunda is currently studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Quantity Surveying (Hons) at the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo. Among his notable achievements include pioneering the “for a child campaign,” a human rights awareness initiative, in his capacity as the Junior Prime Minister in the Zimbabwe Junior Parliament (17th session).
Takunda was also a finalist in the Young Creative Entrepreneurs Awards sponsored by JCI in 2013 and the winner at the Boost fellowship’s SME Awards for the “most outstanding startup venture.”