Debra Matabvu

GOVERNMENT has disbursed at least $42 million under the National Venture Fund (NVF) to innovation hubs in tertiary institutions.

More than 200 business projects from youths and women across the country have been assessed since the beginning of the year.

The NVF was announced in the 2020 national budget and $500 million was set aside as capital to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation by Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs), with a bias towards women and the youth.

A steering committee comprising officials from the Ministries of Finance and Economic Development; Information, Communication, Technology and Courier Services; Industry and Commerce; and Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, has since been set up.

Other ministries also in the committee are Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development, and Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation.

Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Professor Amon Murwira, who is part of the steering committee, said his ministry had already started working on ideas being submitted by graduates from various institutions.

“We have started implementing the project. We have a number of graduates that submitted their ideas and are now working in our innovation hubs,” he said.

“To date, around 50 graduates are working in various innovations hubs in tertiary academic institutions developing their ideas under Government financing.

“The graduates are from the University of Zimbabwe, National University of Science and Technology, Marondera University of Science Education, Midlands State University, Chinhoyi University of Technology and Harare Institute of Technology.

“The ideas that they are working on range from researching on indigenous vegetables, indigenous trees and herbs, plant diseases, genetic testing and traditional grains.”

Briefing members of a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation recently, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development communications and advocacy officer, Mr Clive Mpambela, said work on the registration of a National Venture Company were at an advanced stage.

He said while some projects had taken-off, such as technology innovations, others were still being evaluated.

“The National Venture Company will appoint various independent fund managers that will be responsible for appraising business opportunities to invest in, together with an investment committee that will be drawn from the board and management structures of the company in line with the rules laid out in both the Public Entities Corporate Governance Act as well the Finance Management Act,” he said.

“Concurrently, efforts have been put in place to identify the possible fund managers and partners.

‘‘I am informed the Ministry of Youth has received over 200 projects from all the provinces and they have completed assessing them.”

The fund will be expected to invest in qualifying start-up enterprises, help them grow and generate new employment opportunities which will stimulate their growth.

The model seeks to replicate South Africa’s Public Investment Corporation SOC Limited (PIC) which ranks amongst the best and successful asset management firms in the world and is the largest in Africa.