Skills Minister backs innovation hubs

Trust Freddy-Herald Correspondent 

Skills Audit and Development Minister Paul Mavima yesterday toured the Eight2Five Innovation Hub and Start-up projects in Harare, which will give impetus to the country’s modernisation agenda and aid the manufacturing sector. 

The innovation hub, owned by Old Mutual, focuses on creating a modern, professional and energetic work environment to stimulate the creativity and productivity of entrepreneurial businesses and their teams. The programme aims at capacitating entrepreneurs through business development and coaching, seed funding, and acceleration. 

Speaking after touring the start-up projects, Minister Mavima praised Old Mutual for supporting entrepreneurs. 

“I am very happy about this programme, and I wish we could actually replicate it with the support of our corporate world,” he said. 

“We can also cascade it to our provinces so that the entirety of Zimbabwe is covered. As we always say, we can never have enough entrepreneurs in a country; they are actually the engines of economic growth and they are the ones who will facilitate the solving of various development.” 

“The innovators who are being incubated here are the ones who will solve some of the problems that we have in Zimbabwe.” 

Minister Murwira noted that the hub had already assisted in the founding of a few businesses. 

“I have seen that there are companies that have already been established, and some of them have already grown out of this programme,” he said.

The idea of coming up with innovation hubs would reduce brain drain as some people were going out of the country to do menial jobs.

“Indeed, this idea will contribute to the idea of reversing brain drain,” he said. “If a young person gets the opportunity to develop their own business and all the facets of the business provided within their country, I see no reason why they can then say we want to go out somewhere.”

Old Mutual chief customer and operations officer Mr Isiah Mashinya described all the country’s challenges as disguised opportunities. 

“Every problem is a disguised opportunity. In every challenge, let’s think of a solution, and we can transform our nation. As long as we see challenges, there are opportunities,” he said.

“It’s very clear to us that the innovation hubs will unlock talent and innovation for industries and the public sector. 

“The idea is not to just run it on our own; we have been supporting universities as well, so we are actually seeking partnerships with the universities on the hubs because, inevitably, a lot of brains and talents reside in our tertiary institutions.”

Mr Owen Chiwandire, the chief executive of Clean-up Zimbabwe, a company that was assisted to register through this programme said: “Our company does waste management and recycling; we are called Clean Up Zimbabwe. For waste management, we do it for both companies and households. 

“We work with embassies, NGOs, and all the major banks in Zimbabwe. Now we are venturing into composting, so for the biodegradable waste, we will find a solution where we will create manure and fertiliser.”

Another beneficiary, Mr Takudzwa Chirawo, the man behind Tax Pal Zimbabwe said: “Tax Pal is an online tax preparation platform designed to help small to medium enterprises calculate their taxes even if they have zero taxation knowledge.

“All one needs to do is answer a simple question, and the system will calculate the taxes instantly using the answer sheet provided. As tax consultants, we seek to help all small to medium enterprises be tax compliant and increase their business prospects.”

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