The Sunday News
Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
THREE local scientists have been sent to Japan to produce a Zimbabwean satellite so that the country has presence in space amid reports that the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef) has used more than $3,8 billion investing in manpower development in the past three years.
The scientists are from the Zimdef-funded Zimbabwe National and Geographic Agency that was established on 26 July, 2018 with the aim of implementing a geospatial space programme in line with the policy determined in terms of the Research Act.
President Mnangagwa officially launched the Zimbabwe Science Park and commissioned the building housing the Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency (ZNGSA) recently. ZNGSA is a game-changing facility that will enable the country to effectively manage its resources and predict natural hazards.
President Mnangagwa launched the ZNGSA in 2018 as part of the country’s efforts to leapfrog its development and catch up with other nations as Zimbabwe inches closer towards realising Vision 2030 to become an upper-middle-class economy.
The ZNGSA is housed at the University of Zimbabwe and manned by the country’s young scientists who are benefitting from innovation hubs that were introduced by President Mnangagwa as part of Education 5.0- a concept which places higher institutions of learning as champions of modernisation and industrialisation.
ZNGSA will be deployed for earth observation satellite systems, unnamed aerial vehicles, geospatial and space technologies for better farming, mineral exploration, wildlife consecration, infrastructure management, and disease surveillance.
In an interview in Gweru Zimdef chief executive officer Engineer Sabastian Marume said Zimbabwe must have presence in space. He, however, didn’t give a time frame as to when the country will have its presence in space.
He said presence in space benefits the country in terms of strategic research and development, scientific discovery, and the strong relationships formed through the cooperative exploration of space.
“ZNGSA is 100 percent funded by Zimdef in terms of its establishment and tools of trade. We are now moving into having an ambition to launch a satellite, we have three members sent to Japan to produce a Zimbabwean satellite because there is a lot happening in space and we need to have a Zimbabwean presence.
It’s not just Zimbabwe which has to have a presence in Space. South Africa now has presence in space,” said Eng Marume.
He said a presence in space was a worthy cause for national investment.
“This country was zoned by the colonial master prior to independence and never been changed. We have zone one to five but if you look at Masvingo, with the establishment of Tugwi Mukosi dam, it has changed the climate and also with global warning, there are bound to be climatic changes in the country and the need for new zoning of the country which is done by ZNGSA,” said Eng Marume.
He said there was also a programme mapping wetlands in the country by ZNGSA. Eng Marume said the education system has been refocused so that it targets production of goods and services. Zimdef innovation hubs and industrial parks at universities and colleges will revolutionise the education system by turning higher education centers into finding solutions to Zimbabwe’s challenges and stimulating economic growth in line with the Second Republic’s 2030 Vision, enshrined in National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).
“As Zimdef we have established innovation hubs, for those who are gifted to go and exploit their ideas into something tangible that they assessed on viability.
Then industrial parks to go and commercialise the ideas then we have spin over companies. Those tertiary institutions, don’t just teach but have to think about production.
We are focusing on promotion on entrepreneurship by using what we have and that is why it is called Heritage based, not arts but use of resources we have to produce goods and services towards Vision 2030,” he said.
Eng Marume said over $3,8 billion has been spent by Zimdef in manpower development and the setting up of innovation hubs and industrial parks among other projects done at tertiary institutions across the country.
“Over the past three years, we have used over $3,8 billion in skills development, in manpower development and setting up of infrastructure such as innovation hubs and industrial parks and funding projects at the tertiary institutions like the poultry project at Lupane State University.
Under the Pharmaceutical industry, we funded the National Bio Technology production of Amarula in Mwenezi, they also produced cough mixture. Caps Pharmaceuticals was producing medicine but the formula was imported.
Typical example is Coca Cola brand, we only add sugar and water and nothing more. But let’s break that tradition and be able to produce our own,” he said.