BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
THE decade–long boom in demand for information and communication technology (ICT) products presents Zimbabwe with opportunities to increase exports and improve foreign exchange earnings, according to the country’s export trade promotion body, ZimTrade.
As a producer of hardware, Zimbabwe’s industry is still in its infancy.
But there has been exponential growth in professionally-run firms offering a range of other services, which could expand into the region in line with African trends.
ZimTrade said opportunities were abound across sectors in southern Africa.
It said firms operating in the ICT sector should aggressively take advantage of government’s push to bring most of its operations online, as well as the development of centres of excellence that are poised to revolutionise the way Zimbabweans work and live.
“Currently, there has been a boom in the region for online solutions that will allow children to learn remotely and the number of schools in countries like Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique alone could provide a huge market for Zimbabwean software and programme developers,” ZimTrade said in its latest newsletter.
“Other competitiveness factors that can catapult local companies’ success in export markets is the strong government focus on the ICT sector where policies are looking at improving the supportive environment to do business. Low-hanging fruits are in the ICT-enabled services, which are services delivered directly over ICT networks,” ZimTrade noted.
It said regional economies like Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Angola and Tanzania could be the launch pad for domestic firms with regional ambitions.
To support this expansion, ZimTrade said the country’s human capital, knowledge base, skill set, and general work ethic were strong factors that gave the country a competitive advantage.
According to the Global Systems for Mobile Communication Association, at least 239 million Africans were connected to the internet by 2019. The continent was also projected to grow more than any other region over the next five years, adding 167 million subscribers.
According to ZimTrade, these developments demonstrate the immense potential that lies ahead for the exportation of ICT products and services.
It added that computer-based technologies and digital communication technologies were among the products Zimbabwean firms could export.
It said companies providing mobile advertising, payment solutions and app development services in Zimbabwe should consider providing the same products across our borders where the market for ICT products is not saturated.
“Other ICT services with potential for Zimbabwean businesses are in trade and retail services such as e-commerce solutions, supply chain solutions, help desks and customer care or call centres,” ZimTrade said.
“There are opportunities to establish call centres that serve many countries, leveraging on the pool of professionals from various disciplines, with the available skills in unemployed graduates, which are synonymous with call centre jobs. Marketing and communication companies could operate a remote regional call centre for global giants as well as outsourcing the handling of large customer-bases for telemarketing, research, and offering customer support and handling queries. This model has worked elsewhere as countries such as India and Philippines are top call centres for global technology and retail giants.
“Also to consider are engineering-related technical services such as surface surveying services and map making which companies could provide through ICT networks or through the movement of natural persons to other countries to supply the service.”
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