LAST week’s inaugural Ideas Festival hosted by media mogul Trevor Ncube in Nyanga explored transformative and captivating strategies that can return Zimbabwe to the Jewel of Africa status.
The Ideas Festival, which was headlined by an impressive cast of top academics, industrialists and leaders of start-up enterprises, served a calabash of strategies that can unlock Zimbabwe’s full potential.
The event, which is now dubbed Zimbabwe’s Davos, set the ball rolling in terms of unleashing the country’s optimum potential in the economic, cultural, political and sporting spheres, among others.
Just like the annual Davos Conference held in Switzerland, where the World Economic Forum hosts its annual meeting that brings together global leaders in politics and business, Zimbabwe’s Ideas Festival is poised to attract the participation of eminent personalities in the future.
Conversations held during the Ideas Festival were centred on how the present generation of leaders and citizens can unlock solutions to address Zimbabwe’s long-standing crisis while experimenting on strategies that can stimulate radical economic growth.
At the centre of discussions, participants explored how Zimbabwe and Africa can embrace innovation and technology to stimulate economic growth.
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Currently, the world is gripped with the craze of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how it can be positively utilised to improve people’s livelihoods.
AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems.
In some cases, AI has presented new challenges with scores around the globe set to lose jobs if implemented.
It is exciting how the future will look like when the world fully embraces AI.
Professor of Robotics and Zimbabwe’s former Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara toyed with the idea of optimising the productivity of AI goods.
“We are talking about AI (which) must put US$7 trillion into GDP. The danger is: “Is Africa worth the value of US$7 trillion? Are we producing the AI product? Are we manufacturing the AI product? Or are we just consumers of AI? What are we? We must also have a share of that.
“We can talk about healthcare, finance, efficiency, reduction of costs and so on. The total number of new (created jobs and those modified will be greater than the number of those destroyed. We must accept the destruction of some jobs and then prepare (acquire new skills and capabilities) for new AI jobs and modified careers,” he said.
Zimbabwe is gripped with widespread unemployment and a highly informalised economy.
The country’s fragile economy, however, presents immense opportunities for innovative investors including those interested in the lucrative hemp production industry.
Industrial hemp is a variety of the cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for fibre, grain or CBD flower and spins billions of dollars globally.
Zimbabwe Industrial Hemp Trust founder and chief executive Zorodzai Maroveke presented an exciting idea on how hemp production can boost Zimbabwe’s economy.
She revealed that industrial hemp, which has 2 500 uses, can flourish the paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable, plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food and animal feed industries.
Sadly, the industry is still in its infancy and requires at least US$3 million for research and development for it to be commercialised.
In sync with the economy, the youth quota moved the idea that the country also needs a quota on technocrats amid the realisation that the quality of parliamentarians is a cause for concern.
The second day of the Ideas Festival saw the presentation of 10 innovative ideas under the Eight2five innovation hub, courtesy of Old Mutual Zimbabwe.
Who would have known that a banana can be put to multiple uses from the fruit to waste?
Well, Nezox Brands is leading an evolution that is transforming bananas into flour, snacks, body oil and now is moving into wine making.
Farmbuzz on the other hand is working on agricultural solutions that focus on technology, promoting the concept of smart farming.
At a time Zimbabwe, Harare in particular, is battling hazards of uncollected garbage, the idea behind the story of Clean Up Zimbabwe and the Noble Savage inspired the Ideas Festival.
Clean Zimbabwe is a waste management company which is integrating the old waste management system and technology while Nobel Savage recycles waste plastic to manufacture alternative, eco-friendly and durable building materials.
A panel on creating the ideal start-ups ecosystem elevated the idea of having an ecosystem that works on incubating the ideas of Zimbabwe’s startups.
The panel highlighted lack of support for start-ups.
It advanced the notion that ecosystems will translate knowledge of discoveries developed in the research community by start-ups into a context that is relevant to the industry investors.
This would cushion investors from perceived risks.
Parading the numerous innovative ideas the Harare Institute of Technology pro vice-chancellor, Talon Garikayi, said it was important for start-ups to desist from always looking for money.
“For start-ups this thing of saying I want money is bad. Go to the lawyers, pastors and so on and say I have got an idea to take 80% shareholding, after all 10% of an elephant is better than 100% of a dead rat. Sometimes it is better to leave the idea there and come back to Zimbabwe,” he said.
An idea came up that there should be a quota for technocrats that will allow the President to choose from the pool of people who are not politicians but are able to turn around theeconomy by bringing in expertise from various fronts.
Cimas CEO Vulindlela Ndlovu said the health sector was struggling but presented a whole lot of opportunities.
He said Cimas was open to innovative ideas that could be pitched for consideration.
But to effectively execute these ideas, eye specialist Solomon Guramatunhu said: “What we need is self-confidence, self-reflex, self-respect, and self-love. That's what you want to cultivate. My sense, I agree with you and I'm going to pose something, and I want you to push back.
“I believe that you and I are damaged goods. But quite a lot of people here are also damaged goods. The safe age right now is about 13, those teenagers. If we focus our attention on cleaning up that generation, this country has a future. Otherwise, you and I are sittingdown here, talking about these damaged goods, this and that, we need to go a bit further down,” he said.