12 December 2012

Zimbabwe: ICT to Drive Economy - Bloch

Bulawayo — Economic commentator, Eric Bloch, has said information communication technology (ICT) will soon become a key driver of economic growth in Zimbabwe.

Therefore the business sector should harness ICTs to remain relevant and competitive in the next six years.

Bloch, who was addressing a recent Computer Society of Zimbabwe (CSZ) business conference in Bulawayo, said the country's economy would grow rapidly beginning next year to becoming Africa's fifth largest in 2018.

"ICTs could be one of the key drivers of the Zimbabwean economy. I therefore challenge the CSZ to conscientise industry and commerce on the need for the state-of-the-art ICTs," said Bloch.

"The CSZ must be active in its dissemination of awareness; I am now setting you the target to do more and be a major contributor to economic recovery," he said.

Bloch said the envisaged economic boom would be regardless of which political party would win next year's elections, adding that in 2015, gross domestic product (GDP) would reach 1997 levels.

He said mining would be the key driver of the economy, citing huge diamonds and platinum reserves in Zimbabwe which are yet to be fully exploited.

Bloch said he also foresaw meaningful contribution by agriculture and tourism to the economy, adding that there would be value-addition on exports, a development he said would go a long way in boosting growth.

"We are going to see a beautiful Zimbabwe in the future," he said.

CSZ president, Artwell Mukusha, said unlike countries such as Australia in which the ICT sector contributes six percent to the GDP, Zimbabwe ICTs' contribution to GDP is still unknown.

"No one knows how much ICTs contribute to the GDP," he said.

Mukusha said the uptake of ICTs remained low in the country compared to other countries with Zimbabwe ranked number 124 out of 142 nations.

He said despite the existence of a national ICT policy, there has not been a route plan for infrastructure development, while ICT education remained subdued.

The other factor inhibiting ICTs growth in Zimbabwe, Mukusha said,, was the involvement of three government ministries in the sector, namely Transport Communication and Infrastructural Development; Information and Comm-unication Technologies; and Media, Information and Publicity.

"Everyone has a claim for ICTs; there is no one ministry directly involved in ICTs," Mukusha said.

However, Ezra Maningi of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority urged ICT players to take advantage of the scrapping of import duty on ICT products to capacitate the sector and meaningfully contribute to economic growth.

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