Zimbabwe announces strategic ICT plan – but will it be affordable?

Zimbabwe announces strategic ICT plan – but will it be affordable?

Recent reports from Zimbabwe indicate that the Ministry of Information Communication Technologies, Postal and Courier services has completed the development of its five-year strategic plan.

According to the Zimbabwe Herald, the plan will dovetail with two others: the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) and the Smart Zimbabwe 2030 Masterplan.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the undeniable growing significance of the digital economy, and the government’s hope is that the ICT sector will drive the Zimbabwean economy.

The ICT Minister Jenfan Muswere, was quoted as saying: “The development of the strategic plan comes at a time when innovation is expected to play an enhanced key role in Zimbabwe’s socio-economic development, with a particular focus on the [United Nations'] Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

SDGs are a critical component of the government’s Vision 2030, through which it aims to be an upper-middle income country by 2030.

We will have to wait for specifics to find out how ICTs will be supported and encouraged – and paid for – although an e-agriculture strategy is apparently being developed. The country’s president also told the recently held 9th Smart Africa virtual board meeting that Zimbabwe will continue adopting ICTs to facilitate economic development and transformation.

Smart Africa is a partnership between 31 countries to accelerate socio-economic development through the use of ICTs and better access to broadband services. Zimbabwe joined this year.

However, the strategy will face a few immediate economic problems. For example, it was also reported recently in the Herald that Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is trying to get permission to take payments in foreign currency for some of its products.

In March this year, the government allowed the use of foreign currency for local transactions through a statutory instrument.

Currency difficulties remain a serious issue in Zimbabwe and it’s reasonable to wonder how they could affect ICT investment. Government willingness to allow foreign currency to be used for local transactions has been welcomed by businesses like Econet, which say this has enhanced liquidity while also reducing foreign exchange risks.

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