1 September 2018

Zimbabwe: Meet Zimbabwe's Young Innovators

This year's Harare Agricultural Show has been a mixed bag, which proved the extent to which Zimbabwe is open for business and innovation.

From being officially opened for the first time by President Mnangagwa to unique displays of local products and services by exhibitors, a wide range of livestock and thrilling fireworks displays, those who walked through the gates of the exhibition park had so much to see and many take homes.

Not to be outdone, a group of young inventors showcased prototypes of their innovations at the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education exhibition stand.

The pupils from different primary and secondary schools in Harare and Chitungwiza exhibited that age is just but a number and talent was inborn.

They also stretched their imagination, coming up with big ideas to solve everyday problems.

And just as American inventor Dean Kamen once said: "Every once in a while, a new technology, an old problem, and a big idea turn into an innovation", this young breed of innovators will stop at nothing to prove this.

From their own versions of refrigerators to what they call "5 in 1" moving machines, the students have just proved the sky is not even a limit, it is just a start.

Tatenda Nhepera (15) a pupil at Zengeza 1 High is eager to speak about his innovation.

He invented what he calls a new version of a refrigerator and has vowed to compete with internationally acclaimed brands.

The young boy boasts that he has taken refrigeration to another level.

Instead of the familiar models used today, he claims his saves energy and prevents global warming.

"Seeing how global warming was affecting the world, I decided to develop this type of a refrigerator.

"Unlike all refrigerators used today, its condenser is inside, not at the back.

"The old model condensers emits heat to its surroundings.

"Imagine the number of refrigerators in the world and how they contribute to global warming," said Nhepera.

"In my model, I just did reverse engineering where I have placed the condenser inside and the heat is converted back by a fan into ice."

From his mother's backyard in Zengeza, it took the young innovator one year to assemble the refrigerator, which is made of wood and galvanised sheets, making it cheaper.

While competing with international brands like Defy and Samsung, Nhepera is yet to name his refrigerator, but says it can equally compete on the global market.

At his age, Nhepera is turning into quite a businessperson and already talks of commercialisation.

Not to be outdone 17-year-old Derrick Marongedza, a Form 4 pupil at Hatcliff High School, whose invention, the "5 in 1" earthmoving machine left many who visited their stand excited.

He says he designed the 5 in 1 earthmoving machine that can be used in road rehabilitation, preparation of land, carrying heavy goods such as sand or farm products.

He claims his 5 in 1 earthmoving machine also cleans the environment for example rubbish collection at dumpsites and can be used to drill and clean drains.

He reveals how the idea came after noticing the problem of uncollected rubbish at illegal dumpsites in Hatcliff.

"I decided to develop this machine to save energy, time and fuel.

"I was inspired by the 'open for business' mantra and realised that I could also do something.

"I want to be an extraordinary youth, who can become an entrepreneur and employ others.

"Funds permitting, I will partner engineers who believe in me, then help develop this further.

"I want this on the international market," he said.

Tanaka Ndove (16) a Form 3 student at Zengeza 1 High School, also designed an accounting software for small-scale and indigenous enterprises.

He said the software would help them migrate from the manual method of running businesses and keeping records.

He argues the current system is prone to a number of disadvantages such as fraud. To him, his software is safe and easy to use.

"The country is open for business and moving to grow the economy, we also need better ways of doing business.

"So far a lot of people have shown interest in my software and I think soon if all goes well, my software will be used across the country.

"All I need is funding and am ready to go," said Ndove.

Ndove takes his accounting lessons seriously and sees a brighter future in software engineering.

Speaking after seeing the inventions, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Dr Sylvia Utete Masango praised the competent-based curriculum, saying it was unleashing the talent once hidden in Zimbabwean youths.

"All thanks to our competence-based curriculum which is emphasising on innovation and as you can see, we have talented pupils. As time goes on, we will be able to have a lot of innovations from youngsters," she said.

"The curriculum is aimed at developing the whole person from ECD so that when a learner exits school, he or she should have skills for survival.

"We don't want youths who beg in the streets, but youths who are innovative."

Dr Masango said talented pupils needed backing and urged people to render support to groom the home-based talent.

"These pupils need encouragement and support to develop them further so that they can help their local communities and later in life the country at large," she said.

Even the Prof Mavima was delighted at seeing what these young minds could do.

"I take great pride with these pupils. For long we have been producing engineers who are theoretical, they finish at UZ they get masters degrees, but they can't produce anything.

"But now we are realising that some of our kids are able to innovate at a very early age," said Prof Mavima.

He also said that such innovations would solve Africa's economic challenges.

"We are also saying we have serious societal problems, economic problems.

"Sometimes we look at macro-economic factors without looking at simple things like productivity. And productivity comes with innovation. Productivity at best level can then solve our macro-economic problems," he said.

With the talent that was displayed by these pupils, and the support already shown by President Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe's economy will soon be one of the best in Africa.

By the time they reach university level, who knows what these brilliant minds would have invented?

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