A look at some of Africa’s hottest startup incubators

Although investment in Africa has traditionally focused on commodities rather than technologies, the explosion of mobile usage has opened up opportunities for small-business development.

Memeburn explores some of the continent’s incubators for entrepreneurs to consider before taking the next step. It’s worth remembering that the investor climate is often make or break when it comes to finding angel investors.


Enspire is more than an incubation programme as it aims to support the establishment of businesses that graduate from the initial stage of developing an idea.

The group’s vision encompasses seeing incubating business through to the forefront in developing new and innovative technologies, directly creating products and services, according to TechLoy.

In August 2010, the initiative incubated three ideas, including software engineering and web-portal solution projects that were carried out over a six-week period.

Nigeria has a massive population, which is ideal for cultivating a large market. It is projected by development economist Jeffery Sachs to serve as Africa’s powerhouse within the next two decades — if not sooner. In this context, the international tech media sector has given Nigeria some attention. It is evidently well deserved.


Ghana is certainly not short on opportunities for innovation, and both the private sector and the state are committed to startup culture.

The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) trains and mentors aspiring African software entrepreneurs. The European-based company says its goal is the creation of wealth and local jobs in Africa. Working in partnership with the UN, the Ghana Multimedia Incubator Centre was set up in 2005, and aims to advance ICT entrepreneurship development through the incubation of ICT business startups.

The venture is in partnership with the country’s government and aims to help young businesses that have “ground-breaking and innovative ICT ideas to mature into viable business ventures”, according to Ghana Unlimited.

South Africa

Memeburn recently broke the news of one of the country’s most exciting ventures yet: Google’s latest venture for incubating South African startups.

Identified startups receive six months free office space and bandwidth, between US$25 000 to US$50 000 investment capital, access to Google mentors, and free publicity.

The venture, called Umbono (Zulu for vision), has Cape Town as its home as Google is confident that the city is positioning itself as a hub for innovation and technology.


Tahrir2 is a the first technology hub based in Egypt’s city of Alexandria and is backed by Mohammed Gawdat, Google’s managing director for emerging markets and businesses in Southern, Central, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

According to a report by ArabCrunch.com, Tahrir Square offers startups physical location, mentorship and funding. The amount of money placed in each business will vary, though successful entrepreneurs can look at around US$15 000.


The first phase of the Nelson Mandela African Institute for Science and Technology (NM-AIST) is complete. Construction of the institute’s vital structures has been under way at the site since August this year at a cost of Sh38.7-billion (around US$25 000), reports africanbrains.net. There are scholarships now available and applications are open. The centre may serve as an entry point for the East African nation’s startups.


Kenya, Africa’s mobile rising star, is a growing hub that has attracted a number of East Africa’s entrepreneurs. Technologically, one can argue that Kenya has made the biggest strides when it comes to internet connectivity.

NaiLabs is one of four fresh incubators that has opened in Kenya in the past two years, providing fast internet connections with a specific focus on web, mobile and social media solutions. NaiLabs caters for a 100 startups per given period and, of those, the most promising 10 are incubated at the NaiLabs facilities, TechZim reports.

There’s no doubt that Africa’s incubators are growing, with new centres opening each year. The next five years may provide a snapshot as to how the investment in facilitating the next big innovation correlates with success. And, for investors who have chosen wisely, the payoffs should be good.



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