Its economy is struggling but internet penetration is growing rapidly in Zimbabwe. As Grace Pascoe reports tech entrepreneurs are urging investors to take advantage of an untapped market opportunity.
Connectivity is climbing in Zimbabwe. Fibre cables are being rolled out bringing the internet into many homes in the capital Harare. Vusi Ndebele works for IT company Webdev - founded here over 10 years ago… (SOUNDBITE) (English) VUSI NDEBELE, WEBDEV DIRECTOR SAYING; "We enjoyed a lot of success when the economy could sustain the development of such big solutions. As the economic activity has kind of faulted in Zimbabwe, we are seeing less of those big projects coming to us for custom software development." Zimbabwe's economy is in dire straits and technology could be one way out, says IT analyst Limbikani Makani- (SOUNDBITE) (English) LIMBIKANI MAKANI, INTERNET TECHNOLOGY ANALYST SAYING: "There are a lot of companies created in Zimbabwe that have an opportunity to reach out into markets because we had to solve problems here first because of not having those solutions available to us. I think the opportunity is huge in to the billions of dollars in value of business on the internet in the next few years to come." Scrapping the local Zimbabwean dollar in favour of foreign currencies boosted the economy for three years. But, since 2012, stagnation has set in - and businesses have struggled to attract cash. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LIMBIKANI MAKANI, INTERNET TECHNOLOGY ANALYST SAYING: "I think for people that come in now into Zimbabwe and invest into startups are able to invest into startups at a learning phase, but also at a very low cost phase." Internet and mobile phone use is rising at a tremendous pace in Zimbabwe. But without new foreign investment the country's budding tech entrepreneurs fear they may be left on hold or worse still cut off completely.