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Building a tech-focused continent: 9 of Africa’s innovation hubs


Innovation, mobile, tech and startups. These are Africa’s buzzwords. A continent that arrived late to the web revolution, Africa is catching up fast and leading the way in some aspects.

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The continent is working overtime to build and create products, services and businesses that can rival that of the developed world. It is no longer the dark continent. According to a Daily Beast report, Africa is being heralded as the “new Asia” and the “home of the next Google”.

“Compared to dismal rates in the rest of the world, Africa’s growth is exceptional,” Gustavo Galindo, a portfolio manager with Russell Investments is quoted in the Daily Beast as saying. “It surprises me many US investors don’t realize the opportunities this creates, with some African stocks gaining 15% to 20% returns.”

That surprise is echoed in Africa, where young entrepreneurs are building products that not only solve African problems but can scale as well. In spite of lack of investor interest, the continent thrives and that is to a great degree thanks to tech hubs and co-creation spaces popping up with the aim of fostering innovation and technological growth.

Here are nine innovation hubs and co-creation spaces that are doing their bit to champion the African tech boom.

iceaddis — Ethiopia

Iceaddis describes itself as a self-sufficient business incubation and innovation community center aimed at supporting Ethiopia’s economic growth through technology. The hub aims to connect researchers, developers, entrepreneurs, creative workers and customers. It also encourages collaboration between its entrepreneurs and provides them with relevant training.

Le Malagasy iHub — Madagascar
An innovation hub and co-creation space. The hub describes itself as a space dedicated to promoting the use of technology to reduce the current digital divide in Madagascar. It also provides training for its entrepreneurs and hosts a series of events to help promote collaborations and tech innovation.

Hive Colab — Uganda

Hive Colab is an innovation hub and collaborative co-working space for the Uganda’s tech community. The lab describes itself as an open space with a focus on young tech entrepreneurs, web and mobile app developers, designers, investors and donors.

BongoHive — Zambia

Based in Lusaka, Zambia, BongoHive describes itself as a place for the local tech community to meet, swap experiences, and attend training, networking and hackathon events. The hub aspires to three key elements: innovation, creativity and sustainability, which it hopes will help leapfrog Zambia’s development.

ActiveSpaces — Cameroon

ActivSpaces is Cameroon’s open collaboration space, innovation hub and startup incubator. According to the hub, its aim is to support entrepreneurs working on promising web and mobile ventures with knowledge, mentorship and access to seed finance.

iHub — Kenya

Africa’s most talked about innovation hub, iHub is an open space for the technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in the area. According to the hub, it is a tech community facility with a focus on young entrepreneurs, web and mobile phone programmers, designers and researchers.

CcHUB — Nigeria

CcHUB claims to be Nigeria’s first open living lab and pre-incubation space designed to be a multi-functional, multi-purpose space that encourages tech innovation. The hub describes itself as a place for techies, social entrepreneurs, government, tech companies, investors and hackers in and around Lagos to co-create new solutions to the many social problems in Nigeria.

iLabLiberia — Liberia

According to the Liberia-based lab, it is a non-profit computer laboratory that provides access to cutting-edge technology, expert IT assistance and a community leveraging technology for the good of Liberia. The lab says it offers free training “in contextually relevant ICTs that are open to the public”. It also hosts tech events and serves as a meet-up space for a range of tech enthusiasts and professionals.

Jozihub — South Africa

Recently launched, this hub claims to be the “city’s first technology incubator dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship and innovation”. The aim of the hub is to transform the technology industry by connecting potential entrepreneurs and developers with the critical resources they need.

Noteable mentions

Though these aren’t technically hubs, these organisations are also helping shape the continent’s tech landscape with the aim to foster economic growth in Africa.

Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) — Ghana

The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) provides training and mentoring for aspiring African software entrepreneurs with the goal of creating wealth and jobs locally in Africa.

RLabs — South Africa

Based in South Africa’s Silicon Cape region, Reconstructed Living Lab (RLabs) is a global community based movement and registered Social Enterprise that provides innovative solutions to address various complex problems.

NaiLab — Kenya

NaiLab a startup accelerator that focuses on early stage business ideas that are likely to have a large social and economic impact, are highly scalable, require minimum investments to prototype and have a strong value proposition. It offers a three to 12 months entrepreneurship program for growing innovative technology-driven ideas.

Wennovation Hub — Nigeria

The Wennovation Hub describes itself as a true hub for start-up business development with a focus on synthesizing high impact startup growth, facilitation and development in West Africa. The hub runs specific training programmes from startups in West Africa within funding periods.

88mph — Across Africa

88mph is a startup accelerator program that makes investments in early stage mobile-web companies targeting the African market. The accelerator claims that its startups have immediate reach to Africa’s biggest growth markets via tech hubs in Nairobi (Kenya) and Cape Town (South Africa) and an agreement with several local hubs across Africa.

kLab — Rwanda

kLab claims to provide an open space for IT entrepreneurs to collaborate and innovate in Kigali, Rwanda. It is open to students, fresh graduates, entrepreneurs and innovators and aims to provide them with somewhere to work on their ideas and projects to turn them into viable business models.

Outbox — Uganda

Outbox is a technology incubation, collaboration space and innovation hub that supports techies and further support for people to turn their tech ideas that utilize mobile and web into sustainable businesses.

Its mission, it says, is “create awesome products and businesses on the mobile and web that create value, relevance and are sustainable”.

Have we missed any hubs or cool programmes that are helping build the continent’s tech space? Tell us in the comments.

Image: Global Integrity

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