[By Jonathan Mazyopa Jr]
The road to economic recovery is the subject of the post COVID-19 outbreak. Many governments around the world are adapting to the new normal of doing business. The global shift of the business culture and how businesses can adapt has been the talk of most media houses around the world.
In reference to Zambia, the business community and the government need a good strategy for economic recovery. The government needs to look into the tech-industry and adapt a national startup policy.
The national startup policy should be a special policy that supports small tech companies that have just been formed and incorporated. Most people underestimate the potential of a good tech-ecosystem. This is why Zambia ranks 15 on the nations with good tech-ecosystem, according to Quartz Africa; far behind Uganda, Ghana and Tanzania. The need for good tech-ecosystem outweighs the cost and as such the government needs to acknowledge that information technology is the next frontier of business and growth. Therefore, a national startup policy is the first step in trying to realise the benefit that startups can bring to an economy.
The policy ought to cover areas such as the following:
Firstly, access to equity and capital. The main obstacle that tech startups in Zambia face is lack of equity or venture capital. This obstacle has killed many bright ideas from leaving the small circles of innovators and entrepreneurs. One’s argument that the Citizen Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC), Youth Empowerment Fund (YEF) and other strategic finance institutions and schemes are already in place to support small business is but this is a mere fantasy. These schemes are difficult to access due to a number of reasons which include the need for collateral, un-harmonised interest rates, inflexible terms and conditions. The national startup policy should provide that the government finances startups with a huge potential, either as stake in the company or as a loan collateralised by their proprietary rights and patents.
Secondly, there is need for work space and operations facilities by startups. It is imperative to acknowledge that there is a Tech incubation company called Bongo Hive. However, due to lack of options this discourages those that are not satisfied with Bongo Hives terms. This limits the entrepreneur’s range of options. Therefore, the national startup policy can also look into this issue by offering work space to tech companies that have a high potential on return on investment. This can be the birth place of innovation and creativity by entrepreneurs and inventors.
Thirdly, the national startup policy should be the basis upon which the government invests in research and development of new technologies. The government, through this policy, needs to partner with tech-companies in research and developments and any other joint projects. This would increase the number of patents which would in turn generate revenue through licenses, formulae and proprietary rights. This has a potential of increasing national revenue and consequently improving the balance of payment in capital account.
As an entrepreneur and inventor who belongs to a small startup nebula technology, I would confidently say that there are a lot of bright ideas out there that have not come to light, which the government could have leveraged to attain economic growth.