Home » Business » Invention or Replication? [opinion]

It is often said that school drop outs carry the most innovative minds and some of them include Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Thomas Edison who invented the light bulb, Virgin Group’s Richard Branson, scientist Richard Einstein and the founder of the world’s largest social network Mark Zuckerberg.

Not to be outdone, Zimbabwe’s Sangulani Maxwell Chikumbutso has joined the ranks with his recent announcement that he plans to manufacture electric powered vehicles, unmanned surveillance helicopters (drones) and renewable power generators.

While such innovative breakthroughs are expected to be welcome by all and sundry as a contribution to the country’s development efforts, it has not been so for Maxwell as this has now torched a storm on social media with many questioning whether it is indeed an invention or merely a replica of already established technical innovations.

Born with a creative and entrepreneurial mind, the young founder of Saith Holdings says he carries a vision of driving his company into the future with home grown technologies. But this has attracted a lot of criticism that he has not come up with anything new as similar technologies have been in place in other parts of the world.

Despite being a Form Two high school dropout, Maxwell (35) has always been a big dreamer as he started experimenting with various forms of technology from an early age, which saw him featuring on television for his exploits in the high density suburb of Kuwadzana.

According to an interview he held with an online publication Techzim, Maxwell said he was now seeking a licence from Government to mass produce his “inventions” which include renewable power generating devices, electric powered vehicles and helicopter drone that uses five types of fuel.

Critics were quick to point out that Maxwell replicated already existing technologies and rebranded them under his logo and was now seeking to get Government support for it. Others gave him credit for opening up to the public and inviting them to his premises to answer any questions that they may have about the innovations.

One of the critics wrote: “These ‘invented’ products are good quality finished products, which would have required some sort of expensive lab to complete to such a professional finish. Classic case of — import a Chinese product, brand it and claim you made it. Does anyone notice the uncanny resemblance to this car in Google searches on the net?”

To his credit, Maxwell might have made a breakthrough for the system upon which the powered vehicle runs on as it does not require to be recharged but generates its own power and runs at a slightly higher speed of 90 km/h. Questions have also been raised why the prototype is a left hand driven vehicle if it was made for the local market.

Those who defended him said that the fact that he improved an existing invention takes him to the next level.

“When you are creating a new design for example, some circuit, for it to be called an invention it does not mean you are going to manufacture your own diodes, LEDs, gates, resistors etc. So long as you are creating a new function or process, it can be rightly considered an invention,” one of the defenders said.

“It’s great if this guy is creating anything new. But the car looks like the BYD my girlfriend drives in China. In fact the car is a BYD, so am not sure what he created on the car.”

The helicopter was simply classified as a replica of existing drone aircraft that is already in production in other parts of the world with the only variation coming in the format presented in the present state.

During the open day, Maxwell who grew up in the high density suburb of Kuwadzana said that he had been working on the projects since 1999 and put in a lot of effort to bring in a local flavour to identify with the Zimbabwean market especially the power generating machine.

Given his Christian background, others lay into his alliance with a popular local prophet saying that he was merely using his religious affiliation to reach out to the people with his “miracle inventions”.

“The Pentecostal peeps have taken over the comments! What, with their blessings, spirits, pastors, everything BUT common sense. When the dust settles (it always does), someone will have egg on their face. This looks like Chinese goods that were modified in Zim, or, at best assembled in Zim,” another critic noted.

There were some motivating remarks as one of them only identified as Themba wrote: “I’m thrilled at the level of ingenuity coming from Africa. We need to be starting on producing our own right now. Such projects require our full support as citizens of this continent.

“Don’t reinvent the wheel but if you can improve it, yes you are adding great value. Our continent is experiencing socio-economic upheavals because we do not produce goods; instead we consume what the world produces out of our own inputs. Even the nuclear energy infrastructure that the South African government wants should be designed and built by Africans.

Yes, overseas experts will be brought in as partners, but it should largely be an African project. Let’s walk the talk. Well done everyone behind these innovations. Aluta continua.”

It remains to be seen whether the Government will embrace such technologies especially in view of the emphasis on the economic blue-print Zim-Asset, as the country moves towards effective utilisation of our natural resources and enhancing economic liberalisation.

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