A lot is happening around the world in terms of business. As technology continues to grow, businesses are able to innovate and come up with newer, better ways of offering their goods and services. In this article, we take a looks at interesting developments on the continent and beyond. The emphasis is on what Zimbabwean businesses especially start-ups can learn from these developments.

Kenyan women’s savings venture

Women in Kenya have pooled their resources together to build a block of apartments which will be rented out to students. Popularly known as mukando or stokvels in Zimbabwe, the normal savings clubs usually contribute money or groceries and give these to members at agreed intervals. This time around 25 000 women in Kenya have been contributing as low as 10 cents per month to raise $1 million to construct 102 apartments . At full capacity, these apartments can generate $10 000 each month from rentals. Instead of sharing this money amongst members, the Murang’a County Women SACCO will purchase land and divide it among their members. As a result, each member will own a piece of land and decide what to do with it. In Kenya, only 6% of women own their own land. This innovation is going to change that. Moreover, the cooperative also applies for tender, the most recent of which was a $300 000 road rehabilitation contract where the women were clearing bushes, digging trenches and mixing concrete. The women earn a steady income from such tenders. This is an innovative set up from which Zimbabweans can borrow ideas.

Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship programme

The 5th cycle of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme is now open for applications. Tony Elumelu is a Nigerian economist, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is the founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation and chairman of Heirs Holdings, the Untied Bank of Africa and Transcorp. The aim of his programme is to identify, train, mentor and fund up to 10 000 young entrepreneurs around Africa. They take 1000 entrepreneurs into the programme each year. The programme offers a 12 week learning programme, assistance in development of business plans and a $5000 initial funding. Further funding is given to viable businesses. 21 Zimbabweans benefitted from this programme in 2018. Applications can be made online at www.tefconnect.com. Applications close on March 1 2019.

Mobility and technology

In South Africa, public transport is the cheapest form of transport but it is riddled with many challenges. Commuter minibuses are highly informalised and do not adhere to strict timetables. Rail transport is also crippled by maladministration and aging equipment. As such, nearly 42.4 million people are inconvenienced daily because they rely on these forms of transport. Competition from Uber is also taking its toll. The situation is the same in many other African countries.  To try and minimise the problems, the WhereisMyTransport App allows users of public transport to get data on route timing in major cities in South Africa. The Kwela Taxi Booking App connects taxi drivers who agree to provide certain services to their passengers. While both apps still have limited subscription, at full use, the information from them will increase journey predictability, allow for better time management, route choice and increased personal safety. This interesting technology relies on users’ willingness to help each other. Zimbabwe needs to do a lot of work in this area as well. ZUPCO alone will not solve the transport challenges.

Smart cities

Word from Davos is that India is building a high tech sustainable city by redesigning its Andhra Pradesh capital Amaravati. Large shaded walkways will be built to encourage people to walk through the city. Lots of green spaces and widespread use of solar energy will make the city more environmentally friendly and sustainable. The transportation strategy will include electric vehicles, water taxis and dedicated cycle routes. Fourth industrial revolution technologies like artificial intelligence, the internet of things, autonomous vehicles and drones will be very useful for this city. Many other cities around the world are planning to become more smart and sustainable. Norway is building a 4 million square metre city that will be powered entirely by renewable energy and served by electric cars. Waste bins that send messages when they are full are also on the cards to help address waste challenges. Back home, we have already heard that Econet is partnering the City of Harare in building a smart city. We need to move along with the world.

Business today is all about innovation. Thinking outside the box will differentiate one business from the other, one country from the next. Zimbabwe should not be left behind.