What do we do when we meet?

HARARE - Karibu Sana, Salibonani, Dumela, Makadii, Muribwanji, Ndeipi, Linjani, Tudo bom and the list goes on!

These are certainly the tell tale signs that make us have an idea where one comes from within the African continent.

Often, the conversations do not continue once we have established who comes from where.

But in the spirit of African renaissance, Zimbabweans who have been domiciled in the Diaspora, have upped the ante — setting up a thought-provoking body in Harare which seeks to bring minds together and discuss the future of the continent.

A brainchild of Zimbabwean businessman — Mutumwa Dziva Mawere — but not limited to him, the Africa Heritage Society (AHS), has been launched in Zimbabwe.

The launch of the Africa Heritage Society Zimbabwe, follows the inception of Africa Heritage in 2003 by Mawere in Johannesburg where its South African and continental offices are located.

“Our agenda is to provide enterprising individuals, corporates, scholars and business organisations with a platform for dialogue and mutual aid to help push back the frontiers of poverty, ignorance and under- development in Africa.

“We want to be the leading forum on business strategy and creative networking in Africa. We will conduct targeted research in various fields and identify facts necessary to encourage and promote social responsibility projects throughout Zimbabwe and eventually Africa,” Leroy Murape who is leading the local AHS told the Daily News.

“We would like to provide networking functions supportive of anti-poverty initiatives, best business practices, investment and spearheading development research.

The organisation intends to be the authoritative source of African heritage in its broadest sense while we are dedicated to the drive for mutual cooperation and twinning among members with mutual goals and concerns.”

He said the AHS was in the process of regularising its papers in line with the country’s laws.

The AHS brings together professionals drawn from various fields that include lawyers, doctors, engineers, students, architects, journalists, academics, civic society and socialites.

“As a society we believe that a connected, literate and inspired Africa can produce extraordinary outcomes.  

“Membership is free and we have professional, business owners, and primary members drawn from various strata of the African family,” said Murape.

Zimbabweans living in South Africa provide the biggest membership to AHS.

Murape said the AHS Zimbabwean chapter was critical to encourage exchange of ideas on policy, good governance, rule of law, some of the issues which the parent body in South Africa passionately pursues.

Among the main objectives of the AHS Zimbabwe are key issues of promoting opportunities among like-minded groups drawn from the various sectors, but with the aim of contributing towards the local economy.

“Once we have regularised everything, we will take some of our local members to South Africa on a familiarisation programme. We have targeted 5 000 members and have no reason to doubt that we will achieve this number,” said Murape.

Recently, the AHS South Africa hosted United States’ tennis sisters — Serena and Venus Williams.

They rank among a high profile of personalities who include former presidents, business executives, US musicians and African Union chief, Nkosazana Dhlamini.

“We have gone as far as the United States in setting up the AHS. Currently we are setting up offices in Nigeria. We don’t want to be an Africa where everything is ancient.  We don’t want people to think that outside South Africa nothing works.

“We isolate ourselves by trying to be individuals. If we come together we can achieve as Zimbabwe,” said Murape.

The years Murape spent in South Africa have transformed him to pick up the pieces from the broken hopes shattered at the height of hyperinflation.

While in South Africa, the 40-year-old former nightclub disc jockey learned his trade in communication engineering by tumbling into fibre optic business.

He realised that it was one of the spin-offs from the AHS.

Murape, back home this year, is heavily involved in the broadband revolution which has seen transformation in the information communication technology industry (ICT).

He gives credit to ICT minister Nelson Chamisa and President Robert Mugabe’s consistency in his schools’ computer programme.

“We are actually very grateful to minister Chamisa for the work that he is doing in the industry because now we are opening up communication lines.  The world has just been reduced to one village.

“The speed of information has increased so much that there is no longer a delay in transmitting data, either in video or audio. Information is moving faster. We are actually looking very into moving into cable television,” a buoyant Murape said.

He runs Waves Telecoms which is involved in building broadband network as part of its alliance with Liquid Telecoms.

Since the consummation of the inclusive government and policy consistency by Chamisa and Finance minister Tendai Biti, who have shown tremendous backing for the ICT ministry, there has been significant progress in terms of bandwidth increase as a result of broadband.

According to the Freedom House, Internet access has expanded rapidly in Zimbabwe, from a penetration rate of 0,3 percent in 2000 to 15,7 percent by the end of 2011.

From 2008, Internet usage in Zimbabwe has grown by 165 percent as its penetration grew from 6,9 percent to 10,9 percent, according to World Internet Stats.

In Africa, Zimbabwe ranks 10th in terms of numbers of users, behind Nigeria (10,0m), Egypt ( 8,6m), Morocco (7,3m), South Africa (5,1m), Algeria (3,5m), Kenya (3.0m), Uganda (2,0m), Tunisia (1,7m) and Sudan (1,5m).

“Because of the speed of information that can be transmitted people can now work on Skype, the signal can allow the discussion as If I am in your presence because of the broadband revolution happening right now,” Murape told the Daily News as he gauged the progress of the ICT and Internet development.

The number of Facebook users, Twitter enthusiasts, Whats’s App addicts and other social platforms, do show a revolutuion in Zimbabwe, said Murape.

His firm is part of the companies driving this revolution.

Murape’s clientele includes government departments, schools, banks and retailers.

“As we are looking forward to the changes that are happening in Zimbabwe it’s vital we have things that put us on the same level with rest of the world. I want to be part and parcel of the developments in Zimbabwe. I have learnt enough, I have been away for five years.

“A lot of the players have come on board, that means there is gonna be competition on the price of broadband and this is good for the consumer. It’s a good step that Zimbabwe is taking to move with the rest of the world.”

During his time in South Africa, Murape ran a taxi business for two years — during the 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup.

He has a business concept he wants to bring to Zimbabwe but without giving away much, he does not regret abandoning the South African taxis venture.

“The ground level of South African taxis is totally different. In South Africa it is very bad. It borders on gangster type of attitude.

“Generally, there is more to having a taxi than just carrying a person. There is a lot of space that you can sale, which is advertising in and out. There is a lot of revenue that can be made from just having a taxi.

“There are a lot of ideas that come with being resident outside Zimbabwe. As Zimbabwe we need to change our mindset towards how the whole world is function.

“The reasons why we left the country then were that life had become tough. There is a modicum of normalcy. The question is what do we do as individuals to help the situation?

“If the authorities could allow more platforms where people can share opinion and exchange ideas, and then accept those ideas, whether good or bad, there could be progress.

 “There should be more open debates with those people in position of authority so that they can really hear the views of the people without intimidation of favour. A lot of people have a lot of things to say but they just don’t have the platform or audience with a particular minister.

“We are so much of a scared people. That is the freedom you find in other countries — audience with the people in authority. Politics, business and life in general are about opinion.

“If somebody has another idea, the best way you can speak to them is not by hitting them, burn their house but make yourself heard by making your point with dignity,” said Murape.

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