I was fortunate enough to get tickets to attend the very first BarCamp in Harare Zimbabwe. I wasn’t disappointed in fact, quite the opposite. There were many people from various backgrounds including students, ICT entrepreneurs, media and even bloggers like little me. The main focus on the day was of course the Startup Challenge. I wasn’t involved although I must admit that I do have a project that I am working on that could easily qualify for the competition. I was particularly intrigued by fellow ICT enthusiasts who spoke about changing and adding value to the sector in their own respective way. I also witnessed a variety of Zimbabweans – White, Indian, Mixed Race and Blacks ‘vibing in the same room’ whilst contributing and sharing their various thoughts and ideas on the industry. Call me the nostalgic blogger but I couldn’t help but smile from within that day. Here we were a bunch of us Zimbabweans trying to make a difference in our own way. Yet another example that things can and do work without any political influence or intervention. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, not everything in Zimbabwe is politically related and BarCampZim was yet again a very good example of this.
What did I get out of the day?
I learnt that I wasn’t the only one with a Zimbabwean based ICT related project. I learnt that there are many people working hard in their homes and businesses on some project with the potential to change the industry in Zimbabwe and beyond in some way. To say I was inspired is a massive understatement. Every time I go to South Africa or pass through Nairobi enroute to some other destination, I can’t help but think about the ‘potential’ that Zimbabwe has within the region. It’s massive! With a well educated and entrepreneurial minded population I see a bright future ahead of us. If we could just make and follow through with the ‘necessary investment’ in the various areas, I predict that Zimbabwe could challenge the likes of Kenya and also become a massive Tech Hub on the continent.
Some Keys Points: –
A few people raised some issues about Econet and their lack of support for the ‘small guy’ within the industry. In fact people weren’t happy at all with their conduct especially those who had approached them to collaborate on a specific project. At this junction, I stood up and spoke about Econet and my thoughts on their interaction with the various parties. It has been noted via several media sources recently that Econet is not or rather has ‘forgotten its roots’. Sadly this is not the first time I’ve heard this. I pointed out that tackling a company that supposedly deposits several millions of dollars per day and has almost 6 million subscribers was ‘probably not the wisest thing to do’. Instead disgruntled stakeholders should focus on the current ICT laws and tackle this issue from that angle.
What do I mean by ‘necessary investment’?
I’ll touch on a 2 key points here: –
- It has been widely noted that certain reforms are necessary to ensure that there is a level playing field in the ICT sector. We need a more open and fair system that ensures that the small guy with a brilliant idea is protected against the big guys with big lawyers and that seemingly endless bank account. Essentially we need more up-to-date and relevant laws in general. For example we require immediate focus on issues like intellectual property and so forth
- We desperately require institutions that financially support the various entrepreneurs we have in Zimbabwe and believe me – we have many! I stumbled across an example of the financial support I’m referring to this a few months ago – www.matambaanonaka.com. Recently I went back to my trusted Twitter account and asked whether we had other angel investors in Zimbabwe. I didn’t get many responses to this question but I know that we need more angel investors if we are to move forward in any meaningful way.
Overall I was thoroughly impressed with the manner in which BarCampZim was organised – congratulations to the organisers!! I met some of the interesting characters from Twitter and I have every confidence that there will be more BarCamps in Zimbabwe. I look forward to a time when I shift my busy schedule to attend similar events in Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare and even Chinhoyi. Till then…