Zimbabwe’s Universities Lead the Way in Industrial Innovation

How university-based innovation hubs are creating products that reduce imports, create jobs and meet global standards

by Motoni Olodun

Zimbabwe’s universities are transforming the country’s manufacturing sector by creating innovation hubs that produce goods and services for local and international markets. The hubs, which the government and the private sector support, aim to foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship among students and researchers, as well as to reduce the country’s import bill and create employment opportunities.

The innovation hubs are located at six state universities: the University of Zimbabwe, Chinhoyi University of Technology, Harare Institute of Technology, Midlands State University, Zimbabwe National Defence University, and National University of Science and Technology. Each hub focuses on areas of expertise, such as agro-based industrialization, mineral beneficiation, ICT, energy, health, and defense.

Some of the products and services that the hubs have developed include:

  • Marula juice and wine from the marula fruit are abundant in the semi-arid Mwenezi district. The juice and wine are produced by a multi-million dollar plant commissioned by the Chinhoyi University of Technology in collaboration with the local community.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers and other essential workers. The Harare Institute of Technology has been producing PPE such as face masks, gloves, gowns, and sanitizers since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in 2020. The PPE is supplied to hospitals, schools, and other institutions nationwide.
  • Bread is made from 40 percent sweet potato and 60 percent wheat flour. The bread is cheaper and more nutritious than regular bread, reducing the demand for wheat imports. The bread is produced by a bakery established by the Midlands State University in partnership with a local farmer.
  • Cooking oil from sunflower seeds. The oil is extracted and refined by an oil press machine designed and fabricated by the University of Zimbabwe. The machine can produce up to 500 liters of oil daily, sold to local supermarkets and restaurants.
  • Biodiesel from jatropha seeds. The biodiesel is produced by a plant set up by the National University of Science and Technology in the Mutoko district. The plant can produce up to 300,000 liters of biodiesel per month, which is used to power vehicles and generators. The plant also produces glycerol, which is used to make detergents.

The innovation hubs have also been involved in various research projects that address the country’s challenges and opportunities, such as climate change adaptation, renewable energy development, waste management, food security, water quality, digital transformation, and cyber security.

The innovation hubs have received positive feedback from various stakeholders, including the government, the private sector, the media, and the public. The hubs have also attracted interest from regional and international partners who want to collaborate or invest in their initiatives.

The Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation Science, and Technology Development, Professor Amon Murwira, said that the innovation hubs are seeds for rapid industrialization and modernization of Zimbabwe. He said the hubs are based on the “Nyika Inovakwa Nevene Vayo philosophy,” meaning “the country is innovated by its own people.” He said that the hubs are creating products that are proudly and distinctively Zimbabwean while also meeting global standards.

He added that the innovation hubs are part of the government’s vision to achieve an upper-middle-income economy by 2030 through investment, innovation, and export-led industrialization. He said the government is committed to supporting the hubs through policy formulation, funding allocation, and infrastructure development.

He also urged the universities to continue producing quality graduates who can contribute to the country’s development through innovation and entrepreneurship. He said that universities should be not only centers of learning but also centers of production.

Source: The Herald

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