By Amanda-Ellen Jojo
AFRICA’s software development industry is experiencing an upward trend and this is owed to the continent’s young, digitally-literate population. According to World Economic Forum, Africa’s technological environment has experienced tremendous growth in recent years with 2021 seeing a record number of investments.
Ernest Nyumbu who is an iOS Developer and Google Certified Android Developer said software development and information systems can vastly contribute to the economy if industry is fully digitised because of low operational costs, job opportunities and exporting opportunities.
“The software development industry itself has lower setup and operational costs as compared to other industries such as agriculture where a lot of land and farming inputs have to be bought in order to facilitate the industry.
“It cuts down our paper consumption as a country which is very important in the modern age as the world seeks to go green in order to save the environment,” Nyumbu told The Entrepreneurial Magazine.
He further affirmed that every piece of innovative software on the market usually results in the creation of job opportunities for a wide range of professionals such as Software developers, Project Managers, Accountants, Graphic/UI/UX Designers amongst others.
Nyumbu added that there is room to boost foreign currency reserves since software can be exported.
“Software imports are expensive, most of the systems we use in our enterprise organisations such as banks are imported software with hefty annual license fees.
“By developing our own software enterprise systems, we can significantly cut down our software imports costs and this can also further allow us to increase our software exports,” Nyumbu said.
The Google Certified Android Developer unpacked the possible entrepreneurial opportunities that are in the software development industry particularly in Zimbabwe.
Some of the opportunities in the Zimbabwean software development industry include telehealth, 3D Virtual House tours and smart farming.
“Entrepreneurial opportunities usually emerge from identifying a real-world problem and trying to solve that problem.
“One way our Healthcare industry can be improved is through the development of TeleHealth systems. TeleHealth allows health-related services (such as diagnosis, treatment, medical care, patient education etc) to be delivered remotely to citizens via digital communication technologies.
“This would benefit citizens in many ways such as decongesting clinics and hospitals, saving patients travel time and travel costs (especially those in remote areas), providing remote diagnosis and treatment to patients who are too sick to leave the house and visit a doctor among others,” Nyumbu clarified.T
To ease the problem of house hunting which is taxing in Zimbabwe, he suggested that software developers can create 3D Virtual House Tours. “Developing software to facilitate 3D House Tours and providing it as a service to both home-owners and home-seekers can allow any citizen looking for accommodation to view houses from the comfort of their own home.
“This would save citizens a lot of travel time and travel costs especially considering the increase in fuel costs we have recently witnessed,” Nyumbu elaborated.
In the view of the fact that agriculture is the main source of livelihood in Zimbabwe, Nyumbu indicated that software developers can use their expertise to create farming applications.
He said:“…Farmers are always looking for efficient ways to increase crop yield, this can be achieved through smart farming. Smart farming involves the use of modern-day technologies (such as Drones, Sensors, Software, Telecommunication, Robotics and Data Analytics) to increase the quality and quantity of farm produce while optimising resources.
An increase in our farming yield as a nation would contribute towards lowering the import of farm produce as well as increasing our agricultural exports.”
According to a paper published by Scientific Electronic Library Online (2019), most software developers use the bottom up approach in a move to tackle challenges.
Nyumbu underlined that such an approach will help people embarking on software development entrepreneurial activities.
“Most software projects are complex and can be quite overwhelming to achieve, being a bottom up thinker can benefit you in such instances as you will have the ability to break down a problem into small manageable tasks.
“The design and architecture of a software system as a whole can be intimidating but with the mindset of a bottom up thinker, one is able to visualise the system as a group of small simple components as opposed to viewing it as one whole complex entity.
“This can benefit people who want to embark in software development entrepreneurial activities in that those simple components (or sub-solutions) built for one project can then be reused for another project thus saving time and money,” he said.
Pan-African financial institution, African Development Bank put forward that Africa’s potential workforce will be among the world’s largest by 2030 and the Fourth industrial revolution represents a massive opportunity for growth.
Basing on that projection, Nyumbu is of the view that Zimbabwe and Africa at large still have a long way to go in achieving that since a significant portion of the continent does not have access to reliable internet connection.
“One of the characteristics of The Fourth Industrial revolution is the convergence of different domains of technology such as Biotechnology, Artificial Intelligence and Nanotechnology. A lot of this depends on 5G.
“With 5G, we can facilitate unimaginable technological advances such as Remote Surgery whereby a doctor in one continent can perform a surgery on a patient in another continent saving the patient travel time and travel costs.
“Henceforth, before we can move on to the next steps we need to firstly provide total internet coverage to the entire continent (5G preferably) and then secondly provide affordable Internet costs.
“Unfortunately, both of these seem to be quite a challenge at the moment but I believe if we invest in these it will be a step in the right direction and it will pay off eventually,” he pointed out.
Nyumbu denoted that in order to achieve the projected growth, there is need to embrace technology, change as well as prioritisation of the software development industry through a combination of initiatives.
“One initiative towards this would be to set aside money in the National Budget for funding tech startups. There are a lot of talented software developers in Zimbabwe building impressive software but most of those projects never see the light of day due to a lack of support and funding.
“Continuously funding any promising tech projects will significantly increase the amount of software we create and export,” he said.
He stressed the need for introducing software coding/ programming at primary school level.
In a move to accelerate coding at grassroot levels, in Africa, there is a digital skills initiative dubbed Africa Code Week and the visionaries behind the initiative recognise coding as a new form of literacy.
“If we teach kids how to code from a young age, it will eventually increase the number of participants in our software industry which in turn will increase the amount of innovative software products we create and the more software we produce and export to the world, the more we can increase our workforce.
“The third initiative would be to invest in providing total 5G coverage in Africa. 5G will definitely unlock a world of opportunities such as Smart Cities, Wireless eHealth and Smart Manufacturing,” he remarked.
Nyumbu specialises in mobile app development for both Android and iOS and he fell in love with the idea of developing mobile apps in 2013 when he discovered how human beings were becoming highly dependent on Smartphones.
“The idea of a small device that fits into your pocket and yet gives you the power to do a million other things fascinated me at that time. From that point onwards, I decided to learn how to create software that runs on Smartphones and that’s how I ended up taking up a career in Mobile App Development,” he said.
To date, he has worked on various projects which address different issues in different industries. His latest application being PlaSees a valuable tool for tourists or anyone in an unfamiliar area who wants to discover places near their current location at any given time.“
“One of the most common challenges we faced on this project (as is with a lot of our projects) is the slow adoption in countries where Internet access is still a bit pricey. This is a huge stumbling block that negatively impacts our transition into the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a continent.
“Despite the challenges, one positive thing that always comes out of their projects (regardless of whether the project is a success or fail) is the lessons learnt. All the lessons I learn in previous projects tend to contribute towards the success of future projects. Henceforth, the biggest win in each and every project is the knowledge and experience attained during that project,” he said.