Zimbabwean drone start-up excels in local tech challenge

Our congratulations and best wishes are in order for Zimbabwe Flying Labs.

The fledgling drone and robotics services enterprise has been shortlisted as one of the top ten start-ups in the third edition of the Value Creation Challenge, a business incubation programme that seeks to help promising start-ups scale up their operations.

Sponsored by Old Mutual in partnership with the British Council and the British Embassy in Zimbabwe, as well as EFT, the challenge provides professional business development and learning opportunities, connections and financial support to entrepreneurs that have businesses that are no older than five years.

It also facilitates business development through product incubation, business acceleration strategies, access to networks and potential investors and seed funding.

The programme targets start-ups that operate thematic areas that comprise Emerging Technologies; Financial Technology; Creative Industry (Fashion, Music & Literature); and Sustainability.

Zimbabwe Flying Labs made the cut under the Emerging Technologies area – which refers to new and breakthrough technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, big data, cyber security, robotics and virtual reality.

The start-up – which, under the aegis of WeRobotics, forms part of a global network of drone and robotics technology entrepreneurships – is the first locally-led integrated technology hub that facilitates the exchange of knowledge, networking and skills development in the field of drones and robotics.

As part of a family of over 40 flying labs in the global south, Zimbabwe Flying Labs is working towards a future where technology problems in developing countries are solved by indigenous solution providers using indigenous resources.

The selection process started in February with applications from eligible start-ups, which were then reduced, first to 50, then to 25 in May.

Further selection process and a business and incubation bootcamp later, ten start-ups were left standing. These are Zimbabwe Flying Labs, Clean-up Zimbabwe, Dawa Health, Farmbuzz Agriculture Solutions, Mumoch Enterprise (which like Zimbabwe Flying labs, made it under the emerging technologies cluster); Nyasha textiles Studio; SMarT Wealth; Tax Pal Zimbabwe; and Zar Tech.

The start-ups just concluded a further round of incubation programmes yesterday, with the three standing set to be announced at the end of November.

We hope Zimbabwe Flying Labs will be there at the last leg; seeing as the start-up has been making significant inroads in introducing drone and robotics-based technology among children and youth around the country.

In the past year, the young organisation has been travelling around Zimbabwe’s urban and rural communities, meeting children of school-going age and opening their minds on what drone and robotics can do for them, for their choice of future careers, and their communities.

And this November this year, the company is actually going to hold a STEM Fair in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, where it will showcase various education technology solutions for schools, parents and educators.

“This STEM fair is aimed at reaching over 100 young learners between eight and fourteen years, from local communities across Zimbabwe who may not be able to afford to attend our technology camps or get exposure to emerging technology like Drones, Robotics and Coding. Participants will not be charged to attend. Sponsors are invited to partner with us to reach further,” the company says.

Besides, through Precision Aerial, the start-up that is the custodian of the Flying Lab Franchise in Zimbabwe, the company recently coordinated the first ever drone light show in Zimbabwe, which held spectators spell-bound at the Harare at the conclusion of the Harare Agricultural Show at the beginning of September.

The show was powered by local telecommunications company Econet Wireless, which was celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary.

“As Precision Aerial, the technical partner for the drone light show, we are proud to be the first ROC holder (licenced drone operator) to bring and deliver a drone light show to Zimbabwe. The planning and coordination to do this was incredible. Our special thanks go to the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ), security departments, the air force and the office of the president for helping us make this possible.”

Of course, we know we are biased; but we hope the win nonetheless.


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