MINISTER of Science and Technology Felix Mutati says government will implement policies which will stimulate growth for startups in the tech space.

And Mutati says Zambia will use its unique position of having eight neighbouring countries to become the digital hub of Southern Africa.

Speaking at the Afrilabs Annual Gathering 2022, Mutati congratulated Jacaranda Hub for winning a bid to host the annual conference later this year, making Zambia the first Southern African country to do so.

“My ministry is new, established last year to try and drive digital transformation that leads to a digital economy in this country and we are saying that in order to be on this journey, we are going to drive regulation and policy, not as barriers but as motivations to investment, to attracting investment in the tech space. We’re going to drive the legislation in particularly this year around the startups,” he said.

“A start-up regulation emphasizing on tech, to ensure that we build a working ecosystem where government is a part. The tech hubs such as Jacaranda and others are part. Our colleagues and cooperating partners such as the UNDP and many others are part. The academia and research are a part. And the private sector become part of that eco system that is going to make a difference in this country. We think this is critically important.”

And Mutati said government’s ambition was to make Zambia a digital hub in Southern Africa.

“I think these tools of success are important in the transformation of Africa to be a digital hub of the world. By bringing this conference to Zambia, you’re reaffirming the ambition of the New Dawn government that Zambia in the southern African region is going to use its advantage of being connected to eight neighbours to be the digital hub in southern Africa,” he said.

“Already in the area of infrastructure and in particular fiber optic, we are connected to the eight neighbours and therefore we are ending transit communication and enabling our neighbors to be able to be connected through Zambia and through Zambia to the rest of Africa.”

Mutati expressed confidence that the upcoming Afrilabs conference would to steer innovation through Zambia, accommodating various stakeholders across Africa.

“We have the tools of success. I see this conference that is coming later this year as an important gathering for Zambia as it will bring together various innovators great minds great thinkers from right across Africa that are going to come in one space in a space where they’ll engage interact share ideas and begin to map out what is the future of Africa in the space of technology,” he said.

“They’ll begin to map out that we own the journey and others must ride on the journey that Africa has paved for itself. I have no doubt at all that Jacaranda Hub, you’ll be able to succeed to bringing all of us at this major conference and for all of us to do what we must do…Last year in terms of the investment, we attracted in the digital spaces supporting in particular the startups was in excess of $400 million and we think that Jacaranda hub attracting this conference here we should be able to attract a lot more and beat that record of $400 million and go a lot higher but also being selfish as a country, we want to ensure that you bring dollars and dollars to facilitate in particular our startups.”

Meanwhile, Jacaranda Hub chief executive officer Mara Zhanet Michelo thanked the Ministry of Science and Technology for its support, adding that hosting this conference would open avenues for business and development in Zambian technology.

“We have worked tirelessly and very hard as a team as an ecosystem partner to ensure that we provide a platform that fosters and drives technological advancement in the country. Having had successfully hosted our last Next Gen Incubation Challenge and ideas convention where you honoured as the speaker. It goes without saying that our contribution to the development of startups and innovation landscape is pivotal. And we’ll continue to work closely with your ministry to ensure that we provide access to more entrepreneurs in country. We have provided a conduit of resources programs and activities or aspiring SMEs and entrepreneurs that have growth potential,” said Michelo.

“Our main goal is to put Zambia on the map and what better way than to do it through the Afrilabs platform that has over 51 countries and 330 innovation hubs across the continent. It is such a great pleasure to be granted this opportunity of being the host of the Afrilabs Annual Gathering 2022 and more so because it’s the very first time that Southern Africa will be hosting such an event. And Jacaranda Hub is glad to partnering with your ministry in hosting this event, am grateful to the entire Afrilabs community to giving us this opportunity.”