Zambia has all it needs to be a tech giant in the region. The key lies in resisting the temptation to merely replicate global trends as opposed to focusing on learning from them to develop solutions tailored to our needs
Zambia has in the last few months experienced a rapid acceleration in the adoption of digital technology in all sectors of the economy. This growth has been driven by social distancing necessitated by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Stanbic Bank Zambia Head Transactional Products and Services Chanda Mwila says the country was already making significant strides in creating a digital economy long before the pandemic hit.
Speaking during a Stanbic Anakazi Online Conversations webinar, she noted that the financial sector had been leading Zambia’s digital revolution with countless digital innovations changing the face of banking forever.
“Social distancing has forced companies to come up with new ways of carrying out their daily operations while meeting customer needs in spite of reduced physical interaction,” Ms Mwila said.
“However, despite all our achievements in the digital sphere, there still remains a lot of work to be done if we are to realise Zambia’s potential in technology development and use. The gap lies in the way most companies choose to leverage digital solutions that creates a mismatch between client needs and the products on offer.”
Ms Mwila explained that part of the problem was that many businesses opted to tap into solutions created for other markets, which hardly met the demands of the local segment. She urged businesses to develop a culture of creating solutions tailored to prevailing problems as opposed to following international trends that may not necessarily be what their clients needed.
“If you look at Online Business Banking and the pre-approved digital loans that Stanbic Bank is offering, you will see that they were created to fill a gap in the market as businesses continue to demand for increasingly high levels of efficiency from banks. To top it off, these products virtually eliminate the need for clients to visit the bank which is a plus considering the era we are in.”
Meanwhile, Bongohive Executive Director and Co-Founder Lukonga Lindunda added that beyond leveraging existing innovations, Zambia had considerable potential of being one of the region’s main players in technology development. He noted that collaboration between stakeholders was key to unlocking this potential and turn the country into a regional tech hub.
“We have the advantage of having political stability and a young population that can drive this new sector if adequately equipped,” he said.
Mr Lindunda noted that large corporates and institutions of higher learning had a large role to play in grooming the country’s youths to make strategic forward thinking and digital innovation the norm.
“We have a lot of talented youths that could make a huge difference in the local digital sphere if supported by the corporate world.
What we have noticed is that corporates generally do not understand how to drive innovation that resonates with a youthful market like what we have in Zambia. But when you look at tech start-ups, they are often run by young people looking to make an impact.
Start-ups are more nimble, agile, and present a great opportunity for corporates to get into new markets because start-ups are on the ground and typically have closer contact with clients.
The challenge is getting corporates to see tech start-ups as potential partners so they can leverage their considerable resources to unlock the power of innovation in them.”
Mr Lindunda added that despite the extensive reach and resources that corporates have, they do not always have the capacity to solve every tech problem they may face hence the need to bring on board tech companies specialised in creating solutions suited to their needs.
“If start-ups can ride on big corporates success and reach to unlock opportunities in technology development, then it would be a win-win for the industry and the country at large.
“In the banking industry, for example, there is potential for a bank like Stanbic Bank to partner with start-ups to extend their reach and help improve the country’s rate of financial inclusion.
“If we can focus on grooming young people to value innovation from an early age, we could see some of the gaps in the tech industry shrink within a few years.”