We spoke to Tawanda Mudzonga about the upcoming Startup Weekend in Harare, Zimbabwe. Hypercube together with Mercy Corps are in the midst of organising an event that hopes to bring young entrepreneurs the opportunity to present their ideas to help combat the ever-increasing issue of youth unemployment in the country.
Unemployment in Zimbabwe has been a growing concern for the past decade, with a staggering 80 percent of the population out of work. With a growing young population, all eyes are on as the pressure mounts up for initiatives to be brought forward and implemented to try to alleviate the burden this could have on society. As more young people graduate and enter a bleak job market, many look abroad to places such as the UK, and the US to seek better employment opportunities. Although a widening global issue, each community must have its own tailored solution
What is Startup Weekend?
Startup Weekend is a global network of entrepreneurs, the biggest of its kind in fact, with 45,000 alumni. It helps to organise and bring together aspiring entrepreneurs, whilst empowering individuals and communities to share ideas and to inspire one another. These events can be brought to any city to try to motivate communities to contribute to positive development by launching successful business projects. Startup is a recognised global brand, sponsored by Google and Amazon, with over 1800 events to date across the world.
This May will see the first startup event in Zimbabwe. Hypercube, a technology hub in Harare, and Mercy Corps, a long established NGO that promotes participatory methods to try to combat poverty worldwide, have come together to hold the event. All events follow to the same format, spanning three days, allowing people to pitch their concept and receive feedback. After a vote, the top ideas then undergo intense teamwork from business model creation to market analysis. The event then ends with the final presentations and the long-awaited awards. This very format was the appeal for the event to be held at Hypercube.
Hypercube, a Focal Point for Technology and Mercy Corps – What a Perfect Match
The launch of Hybercube last November marked a turning point to centralise and connect Zimbabwe's tech players. Tech in 4D is their mantra and refers to their four distinct categories – community, co-learning, co-working and co-innovation. It was only natural for Hypercube to host the event. Hypercube and its founding members noticed and wanted to harness the growing interest in technology, launching the space to support the tech community in Harare. Increasing the participation of women in the technology sector is also an overall objective for the organisation, which is a precedent to be set. The partnership with Mercy Corps is clear, with an ongoing technology based project in Zimbabwe it was only natural for the two to work together to make this happen. The philosophy of Mercy Corps is the belief that ‘secure, productive and just societies’ can only emerge if and when the private, public and civil society sectors are able to work together with transparency and participatory methods for peaceful outcomes.
What Does the Event Hope to Achieve?
Obviously it is the aim to get great ideas to the forefront and revealing a winner, however the greatest hope is to facilitate and be the platform for the meeting of likeminded people, and allowing for people to get to know others in your field that you otherwise may not have had the chance to. "So many people who have good ideas, but do not necessarily have the resources or the access to the right people that can help make those ideas a reality," Ms. Mudzonga states. Flying under the banner of 'No Limits', the event's outcome will hopefully stimulate the tech movement in Zimbabwe.
Technology as a Catalyst for Development
Technology has a huge role to play for sustainable development as a whole; it is up to innovative minds to formulate ideas to try to tackle the myriad of issues that societies face. What is perhaps lacking is the access to resources which is one thing that Hypercube tries to enable. When asked what role can technology play in the social sector, Ms. Mudzonga said "Technology represents freedom, the tools are there and available to anyone with internet connection so it is just a question of learning of how to use them and learning to adapt them to whatever your needs are. Investing in technology ‘is a really important way for Zimbabwe to develop."
Similar events gain enthusiasm and a lot of attention but lack of resources and dissolution of project teams often leads to an inability maintain focus on and foster the projects once the event is over. In the case of Startup Weekend Harare, the aim is to bring back the event next year, and to help contribute the change needed to kick start the job market and, in turn, the Zimbabwean economy. Successful solutions cannot be based on myopic aims and with the organisers peripheral view on tackling big picture issues through targeted, integrated initiatives such as this, they go a long way towards building long-term solutions that become the foundation for positive development.
The Startup Weekend will be held on 16 May at Hypercube in Harare.
TIMES Pieces is a monthly editorial series on RESET.org where we speak with people who are employing TIMES principles (Telecommunications, IT, Mobile, E-Commerce, Service Provider) for social and environmental good. Read more in the series: TIMES Pieces