Bianca Mlilo Business Reporter
ZIMBABWEAN businesses should invest more in technology-driven ventures in order to tap vast economic opportunities and fast track domestic economic growth. A visiting delegation of business leaders from the Silicon Valley in the United States believes the key to unlocking robust economic growth lies with Zimbabwean entrepreneurs who should develop concrete business ideas that compete at a global level.
The seven-member all female delegation was in Bulawayo on Thursday where it held an innovation conference with women businesses and students at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust).
The Silicon Valley is situated in southern San Francisco Bay area in the US and is home to hundreds of start-up and global technology companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook among the most prominent. The place is also a hub of technology-focused institutions and has a computer history museum.
One of the members, Eileen Brewer of Symantec, said innovation presented broad opportunities for business people in general and women and young girls in Zimbabwe in particular.
“People need to come up with new ideas of starting businesses as opposed to seeking employment,” she said. Brewer said the secret that will help Zimbabwe to develop faster is to avoid relying on foreign investment but instead find solutions to domestic challenges.
She said the solutions should be anchored on technology and robust entrepreneurship approaches. “I’d suggest that you do something like a VC (venture capital) camp where you’d have venture capitalists from countries in Europe and the United States coming to Zimbabwe to teach and train your business executives on how to invest here,” she said.
Zimbabwe is in dire need of foreign direct investment to boost its economic growth.
The country needs an estimated $27 billion to fund various projects under the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset). Under this five-year economic blue-print (2013-2018), the government intends to create about two million jobs.
The American delegation has been in the country for a week on a mentorship programme organised by TechWomen Zimbabwe, a local organisation that promotes women involvement in technology development and learning.
The initiative dovetails with the government’s thrust to promote the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). TechWomen Zimbabwe representative, Helen Timm, said women had learnt a lot from the visiting delegation.
She said while many entrepreneurs had business plans, they lacked relevant information on how to turn their dreams into reality. More than 500 women in Zimbabwe participated in the mentorship programme that was also held in Harare and Kariba.