Zimbabwe launches first computer plant

Zimbabwe launches first computer plant

Project is a joint venture between TelOne and Chinese firm Inspur.

China has assisted Zimbabwe in establishing the Southern African country's first computer and laptop assembly plant under the auspices of the Zimbabwe Technology Company (ZITCO).

ZITCO is a joint venture between Zimbabwe fixed phone operator TelOne and Chinese firm Inspur.

Having toured the plant, Zimbabwean President Emerson Mnangagwa tweeted "ZITCO is the first company to assemble computers locally, with capacity to produce 150,000 annually."

According to the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz), Zimbabwe is witnessing growing digitalisation as evidenced by rising active internet and mobile penetration rates of 58.9% and 88.2% respectively.

TelOne engineer Jeremia Munembe said the tech gadget assembly centre was "looking at assembling desktops, laptops, tablets and other ICT devices" at the Harare factory.

The expectation is that the centre will also create jobs and intensify the take up of locally produced goods.

"We are also looking at opportunities where we will work with other small to medium enterprises and innovation companies in terms of software components. We are looking at a number of products that feed into laptops, desktops and ICT devices," said Munembe.

The ICT and Science Development Committee, under the opposition MDC, has acknowledged the importance of home-grown technologies and gadgets.

"Technology... is also about ways in which products we use are made. Zimbabwe cannot afford to be left behind," it said.

Bongani Haliman, an ICT gadget technician and consultant in Harare, believes more resources are needed to boost these computer assembly centres to make them useful and sustainable.

"We need firstly to have knowledge of our business climate such as markets, intended uses of laptops and desktops. These computer components which come from other countries are built to their specifications so we also need to start thinking about manufacturing our own components and even finished units which will be built to suit our market," said Haliman.

Local public policy expert Kudakwashe Tobaiwa said Zimbabwe is geared to be a dominant player in ICT in the region, and the country was ready to capitalise on its wider ICT skills base.

"We already have the human resources, now we have the infrastructure, next destination, ICT Dominance," he said.

China is already a major player in Zimbabwe's tech sphere. In addition to building facial recognition technology for the country, Chinese financiers continue to support state-owned telecommunication firms including NetOne and TelOne.