Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
ZIMBABWE’S robust investments in Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure have empowered businesses and individual citizens to easily migrate to digital trading, thereby cushioning the economy from the disruptive impact of Covid-19.
Following the outbreak of the pandemic, the country is smoothly developing e-learning platforms for primary, secondary and tertiary education, having already embraced virtual transactions. Surveys already indicate that in Zimbabwe about 89 percent of the transactions are done through mobile financial services platforms.
Business meetings and social meetings, as well as church meetings, are now being held remotely, while most of Zimbabwe’s work force is working from home, assisted by the increased connectivity, and e-meeting platforms.
Experts also agreed that the digital economy offers opportunities for increased productivity, entrepreneurship, innovation, job creation and access to new markets.
Delivering a policy presentation during a high-level virtual World Summit on Information Society (WSIS-2020), the Minister of Information Communication Technology (ICT), Postal and Courier Services, Dr Jenfan Muswere, said Zimbabwe has scored significant milestones in digitising its economy with a number of business and governance operations as well as consumer services being conducted online.
While Covid-19 has shown that most countries were not ready for digital trade, as there were serious outcries across the globe, Dr Muswere said Zimbabwe was ahead of others.
“Due to the forward-looking policies of the Zimbabwean Government, Zimbabwe has fared pretty well in terms of trade, both with external partners and among businesses and consumers, within the country,” said the minister.
“The Zimbabwean ICT policy resulted in a robust ICT infrastructure network being installed throughout the country, comprising both fibre and wireless technologies saw over 8,7 million internet subscriptions being recorded in the course of 2019. This has seen the economy and trade, becoming digital.
“When borders closed during the pandemic, online transactions between businesses in Zimbabwe and other countries, became the norm, with delivery of goods between Zimbabwe and South Africa using a relay technique for drivers, so that crossing borders was minimised.”
To complement infrastructure projects, Dr Muswere also told the global gathering that Zimbabwe has thriving innovation programmes and a wide-reaching ICT skills training programme, which also helps increase the pace of development, both technologically and economically.
The new dispensation also has a bias in fostering innovation hubs through universities, laboratories, start-ups and large businesses, to innovate for the good of the economy and development.
As such, Dr Muswere said every business must embrace technology and adapt to changing environmental circumstances. This entails development of data driven decision making, exploiting the power of the internet to work effectively from home including e-learning, and a shift in distribution channels. Given the multi-faceted nature of the digital economy, the minister said policy makers across the globe need to adopt a holistic approach to addressing a wide range of areas to maximise potential benefits, while mitigating the relevant risks.
Critical policy interventions, he said, include but are not limited to promoting subsidies and tax breaks, development and installation of adequate ICT Infrastructure supported by adequate energy infrastructure.
Dr Muswere also stressed the need to facilitate free flow of data while protecting privacy, ensuring that public data is reusable and discoverable, dealing with bureaucracy, as well as enhancing connectivity and inter-operability of digital platforms across all sectors.
He said under new dispensation led by President Mnangagwa more network base stations have been constructed. Reflecting on the immediate Statutory Instrument 80 of 2020 Banking (Money Transmission, Mobile Banking and Mobile Money Interoperability) Regulations, the minister said the policy will further facilitate increased traffic across banking and telecommunication network. As the country embraces digital trading, Dr Muswere assured businesses and the public of safety of transactions, use of electronic systems and building confidence in the use of ICTs. He said the Cybersecurity and Data Protection Bill, which is set to become law shortly, is being debated in Parliament. “Zimbabwe has all the ingredients for successfully managing trade in the digital economy, both at home and abroad,” he said.
Dr Muswere was among the high-level presenters to the virtual summits which ran under the theme: “Digital Economy and Trade/Financing for Development and the Role of ICT” The minister’s presentation sought to answer the question about the success factors for trading in the digital economy and how Zimbabwe has fared since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic.