PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa says the government could easily circumvent economic sanctions imposed on Harare by the West if the country makes use of its highly-skilled human capital to foster economic development.
This comes as the country is reeling under embargoes imposed by the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the European Union on allegations of gross human rights abuses.
The US and its allies have maintained the sanctions since 2000 when the previous administration of the late former president Robert Mugabe embarked on a violent and chaotic exercise to redistribute land previously owned by minority white commercial farmers to landless black Zimbabweans.
When Mnangagwa came into power following a military coup in November 2017, he promised to implement economic, political, media and human rights reforms.
However, the US and its partners have kept the sanctions in place after insisting that Harare has not shown any appetite to reform.
Speaking at the official commissioning of the Zimbabwe Information Technology Company (Zitco) in Harare yesterday, Mnangagwa said the sanctions should not hinder the country’s progress.
“Our economy has been subjected to sanctions for the past 20 years, but this, we should realise, should not tie us down.
“We should have the capacity to leapfrog and catch up with the rest of developing countries. What is happening today is evidence of such leapfrogging,” Mnangagwa said.
Mnangagwa said the laptops and desktops which are being manufactured by Zitco – a joint venture company between TelOne, the government through the Office of the President and Cabinet and a Chinese company Inspur Group – would enable the modernisation and automation of the country’s systems to propel the national development priorities outlined in the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).
“The facility will help facilitate technology transfer, foster human capital development, enhance import substitution and create robust platforms upon which innovations and designs can be commercialised hence the potential to manufacture similar ICT equipment and components must be fully explored and exploited; mindful, however, of the need to adhere to requirements relating to intellectual property rights.
“I thus challenge stakeholders in the sector to be more proactive by pursuing strategies, projects and programmes that will see Zimbabwe evolving into an ICT manufacturing hub for a broad array of more complex components.
“The local production of hardware triggers demand for the development of complementary software packages. We must, therefore, intensify our national efforts to develop software riding on the abundant intellectual capacity available in the country. Such initiatives will promote broad-based and inclusive empowerment of our communities, particularly the youth,” he said.
The president said the fact that the factory was completed notwithstanding the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic afflicting the country was testimony to the “determination, focus and commitment by my administration to produce tangible high impact projects within defined timeframes”.
He implored tertiary institutions in the country to speedily develop appropriate solutions and applications towards the growth of a big data economy through their industrial parks.
Mnangagwa also directed ministries, government departments and agencies to set time frames for migration from manual to automated systems.
“Equally important is the need for all public entities to ensure that their staff establishments provide appropriately ICT-trained and tech-savvy persons.
“This new work ethic and culture of the Second Republic which is characterised by unity of purpose, hard, honest work and dedication will undoubtedly have a positive impact to the speedy achievement of our national development aspirations as envisaged in vision 2030.
“Meanwhile the ongoing overhaul of the Research Council of Zimbabwe and the Scientific Industrial Research and Development Centre must be quickly concluded to complement the broader modernisation and industrialisation of all sectors of our economy.
“I appeal to the private sector to explore robust synergies within the ICT sector through harnessing the existing capacities in our skilled human capital.
“As such, more resources must be set aside for research and development, innovation, inventions as well as the commercialisation and manufacturing of key ICT components and equipment,” Mnangagwa said further.
Meanwhile, the government took delivery of the first batch of 1 500 Zitco computers comprising desktops and 600 laptops assembled at the plant for use by civil servants.
“This will facilitate the e-government programme which aims at achieving timely and quality service delivery for all our people. Going forward, ministries, departments, agencies and local authorities should speed up the development of online digital services through the exploitation of existing linkages between the high-performance computer, national data centre and other connectivity networks in which the government has made huge investments,” the president said.
Speaking at the same occasion, TelOne managing director Chipo Mutasa said Zitco with an annual production capacity of between 50 000 to 150 000 had so far produced 2 500 desktop computers and laptops.
“While the company started off with the manufacturing of PCs and laptops, it has the ability and capacity to manufacture any electronic gadgets like smart electronic meters, projectors, calculators, phone sets among many others.
“We are delighted that the partnership with original device manufacturers like Microsoft and certification as an original equipment manufacturer which we have managed to acquire is key in assuring originality and guarantee the quality of our products,” Mutasa said.