Is there a new tech innovation boom in Zimbabwe? Insights from the DEMO Africa Innovation Tour

DEMOtourZimbabweHarry Hare of DEMO Africa shares insights from the DEMO Africa Innovation Tour trail. Only a few weeks left to apply for DEMO Africa. Apply now

DEMO Africa is a startup launchpad for innovative companies from African countries. It is part of the flagship initiative of LIONS@frica that aims to connect African startups to the global ecosystem.

The DEMO Africa Innovation Tour is a tour along several capitals in Africa that allows the DEMO Africa team to meet startups and get them ready for the DEMO Africa event. This year’s DEMO Africa event will take place between the 22nd and 26th of September 2014, at the Oriental Hotel, Lagos, Nigeria.

The tour started at the NaiLab in Nairobi, Kenya. Other stops were with Zambia’s Bongohive, Tanzania’s Teknohama, Uganda’s HiveColab, and events were also hosted in many other places. Last week, the DEMO Africa team was hosted by Hypercube innovation hub in Harare.

From the onset, Harare felt like Nairobi. Happily though, without the congestion, the crazy traffic jams and the numerous security alerts necessitated by the ongoing war on terror. However, beneath this calm, one couldn’t help to notice the simmering energy from entrepreneurs and innovators. Regrettably, this lot feels forgotten as the rest of the world loses itself in Zimbabwe’s politics.

From our interactions with this group, it’s clear that the start-ups in Zimbabwe feel that other African countries have left them behind.  It is this realization that is pumping the energy to place Zimbabwe on the African innovation map. The structures to support this are starting to emerge. Last year alone, two hubs were established; Muzinda Umzi and Hypercube.

Muzinda is more of an entrepreneurship hub than a tech hub as it supports any business idea that shows potential rather than those purely in the technology. It is funded by Higher Life Foundation, an NGO that has strong ties with Econet Wireless.

Hypercube Hub opened its doors to technology entrepreneurs mid last year and is headed by Munya Chuira, who is also the founder of GrowVC, a crowd sourcing venture capital firm based out of the US. Hypercube actually came into being after the founders won the tender to establish a hub in Harare. Hivos, Indigo Trust and the US Embassy currently support the Hypercube hub.

UNDP has also recently started collaboration by supporting some of the activities at Hypercube. It is this kind of recognition and credibility building that is bringing start-ups and other entrepreneurs to the space. Just in the last two weeks, the hub has hosted both the DEMO Africa innovation Tour and the Startup Weekend Harare.

With these structures coming up and the support from both the government and international organizations including the likes of UNDP coupled with the energy, enthusiasm and talent among the entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe can be said to be at the cusp of an innovation boom. This year looks promising for start-ups in Zimbabwe and in the next two  we can only expect to see serious technology innovation contenders from Zimbabwe.

In the meantime, applications for DEMO Africa are still going on. However, the tour will continue this week, with the next stop in Cameroon (Activspaces) on May 29th, Egypt (Ideaspace) on June 5th. The final stops will be in Ghana and Nigeria. Dates to be mentioned soon.

The DEMO Africa team will also join Seedstars World on 5th June in Accra Ghana for the Flagship event. Egypt’s Innoventure’s, Ideaspace and Nile University will host the team on 8th June.