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Peter Kuthan / AZFA
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« on: June 11 2012 »

09/06/2012  by Staff Reporter

TWO Zimbabwean youth entrepreneurs – Simbarashe Mhungu and Limbikani
Makani – will travel to the United States as part of the U.S. President’s
Young African Leaders Initiative.

They will attend the 2012 Innovation Summit and undergo a two-week
professional development programme sponsored by the U.S. Department of State
in collaboration with the Meridian International Centre.

Mhungu, 32, is founder and managing director of Harvest Fresh, an indigenous
company specialising in agribusiness and food processing.

The former Victoria Falls Safari Lodge trainee received his undergraduate
business degree from Howard University, Washington, D.C., and worked in the
U.S. for Goldman Sachs and The Walt Disney Company.
Makani, 31, is founder and managing editor of the Technology Zimbabwe
website (www.techzim.co.zw ) and holds a national diploma in Information

Since its establishment, TechZim has become a leading voice on technology
issues in Zimbabwe and a main promoter of local technology creation and
venture capital investment.
Makani says he is counting on Zimbabwe’s youth to take IT innovations to a
new level.

“The achievements Zimbabwe has made in terms of human capital is immense.
We have a youth that is capable of delivering on a global scale, but we also
have a youth that has been disconnected from the world in terms of
communicating or exchange of ideas….  The sooner we tap into it, the sooner
we benefit,” says Makani.

He sees himself as a true ambassador of that human capital as he heads to
Washington D.C., where he will meet top U.S. government officials, IT
experts, company executives and representatives of civil society

Makani is a true internet devotee. He speaks passionately, with youthful
enthusiasm and an eager smile, about the infinite possibilities and
opportunities available to Zimbabweans online.
He also has an unbending faith in Zimbabwean online entrepreneurs and their
power to change Zimbabwe.

“The internet is so powerful,” he said. “And it is really pointless to try
to block it – there are always ways around to get to what you’re trying to
find. Because it’s the internet – the whole idea is we are all connected on
it and you can find anything.”

Makani studied information technology and, in 2009, started TechZim,
arguably Zimbabwe’s leading technology website featuring product reviews and
local IT news. With 3,000 page views per day, TechZim has set its sights on
building a culture of start-ups and innovation in Zimbabwe.

“A lot of Zimbabweans see the internet as a product, not a platform,” he
laments. “They think they are just an audience, but they need to see how
much they can do and put on the web.”

Limbikani had never seen the internet until the day his boss at the Gweru
shopping centre where he worked after finishing high school, bought a PC and
got a dial-up connection. It was 2001 and there were 500 million internet
users worldwide – many in the U.S. but few in Africa. The search is what
hooked him.

“When I did my first search, I couldn’t believe how much I could find on the
internet. I kept saying, ‘All this, I can get all this…,’ and I just kept
looking up more things.”

Exploring the internet took Makani’s life from black and white to colour in
an instant. “My first time on the internet was a religious moment,” he says,
smiling a deep, knowing smile and recalling intimately the experience.
“Today, internet uptake in Zimbabwe is still slow but that ‘moment’ is
happening now to a lot of people.”

About 60 youth leaders from throughout Africa are expected in the U.S. for
the Summit and Mentorship Partnership. The programme is part of the Obama
administration’s multi-year initiative targeted at young African leaders who
are actively promoting positive change in their communities.

It began with President Obama’s Forum for Young African Leaders in 2010, has
included more than 2,000 U.S government-sponsored programmes for young
leaders across Sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama sponsored a Young African Women Leaders
Forum in South Africa in which two Zimbabwean young women leaders


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