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African e-commerce company Wasoko has launched the Wasoko Innovation Hub in partnership with the Zanzibar government.
Located in Fumba Town, the new hub will focus on building world-class technology solutions and become a home for more than 500 engineers, product managers, UX designers and researchers.
The Wasoko Innovation Hub is the first private-public partnership between an African tech start-up and the Zanzibar government for Silicon Zanzibar – a new government initiative to attract and relocate tech companies from across Africa to the island. As part of the launch, Wasoko becomes Silicon Zanzibar’s first anchor company and official private sector ambassador.
In addition to strengthening Wasoko’s operational efficiency, the new hub will specialise in developing tools to personalise customer experiences, improve delivery metrics, expand financial services’ options as well as collect key data and insights from across the value chain. Over the next 10 years, it is expected to secure over $15mn worth of investment providing hundreds of Zanzibaris with a wealth of employment and career opportunities.
Speaking on the launch of the innovation hub, Daniel Yu, CEO and founder at Wasoko, says, “As a Pan-African tech company, Wasoko has been looking for a location where we can bring together the best talent from across the continent and beyond to innovate and develop new products and services for our customers. While we considered more traditional centres such as Dubai and London, we were ultimately committed to the belief that technology for Africa should be built in Africa.
“Through our new partnership, we’re proud to be working alongside a government which is heavily invested in supporting this mission and are honoured to be a founding partner for Silicon Zanzibar. We strongly believe Wasoko will be the first in a long line of tech companies to establish a presence on the island.”
The Wasoko Innovation Hub will be part of Fumba Town’s current redevelopment scheme led by German engineering firm, CPS, which is constructing hundreds of modern residential and commercial units along a 1.5km stretch of ocean shore and is located only 15 minutes south of the Abeid Amani Karume International Airport.
The location will become the main hub for Silicon Zanzibar, which will streamline the issuance of work visas to skilled tech workers from across Africa and beyond to relocate to Zanzibar.
Zanzibar is renowned as one of the world’s top tourism destinations, with direct flights to over 20 destinations across Europe, Middle East, and Africa. In order to further attract tech companies, the government will also offer strong incentives under the country’s existing Free Economic Zone program including an exemption from corporate income tax for ten years.
Mudrick Soraga, Zanzibar minister of investment and economic Development, adds: “No longer will tech companies need to open offices and move their people to Dubai or London to manage their operations in Africa.
“We are providing an open and enabling environment for all tech companies and their team members to be based in Zanzibar, allowing everyone building tech for Africa to be based in Africa. We are excited to officially partner with Wasoko and other tech companies coming to Zanzibar to co-create policies and initiatives that will transform Zanzibar into a leading tech centre for the African continent.”
The launch of the Wasoko Innovation Hub marks the latest milestone in its rapid growth journey, which saw the start-up named as Africa’s fastest growing company by the Financial Times in May 2022. This followed its $125 million series B equity round in March – the largest venture financing round ever raised for a non-fintech start-up in Africa. Since its launch in 2016, Wasoko has delivered three million orders to over 75 000 informal retailers across Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire, and Senegal.
Sebastian Dietzold, CEO of CPS, adds, “CPS supports developing vibrant communities that add value for investors, such as Wasoko, with a core purpose of empowering the Zanzibar people and businesses.”