Innovation hubs and co-creation spaces
From Africa to the Americas to Asia, most economies are driven by small and medium scale enterprises. Behind these small businesses are people of diverse ages, educational, and socio-economic backgrounds who have dreams and hopes of making it big. Sadly, most of small businesses do not survive past five years. According to US Census Bureaudata, about 50% of businesses will fail in the first year. Of the remaining 50% that make it beyond one year 40% will fail before five years. While the many reasons have been given for this alarming rate of failure, a common factor is a lack of business, and poor financial and organized institutional support.
In Africa many governments and private players have taken action to address this widespread challenge. One approach gaining more traction is the establishment of business incubators, which can help speed up the growth and success of early- stage companies. These hubs help bring together angel investors, state governments, economic-development coalitions and other investors. Hoping to launch a business on the continent? Check out Ayiba’s stake on Africa’s top ten incubators.
Muzinda Hub (Zimbabwe)
Launched in 2013, Muzinda Hub is the largest technology hub in Zimbabwe. In 2015, more than 700 students graduated from their program. Driven and inspired by Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, the hub has nurtured thousands of students through its Technology and Business Incubation Program. Muzinda Hub won numerous awards for their outstanding contribution to developing the next generation of Zimbabwean tech gurus. Muzinda Hub gives opportunities to their program graduates by consulting for private businesses.
HiveColab was founded in 2010 by African technologist and Appfrica CEO Jon Gosier, Daniel Stern, Teddy Ruge, and Barbara Birungi. The Kampala, based innovation hub and startup incubator is noted as one of Africa’s first major innovation hubs. Funded by Appfica, IndigoTrust, and Dutch NGO Hivos. HiveColab is one of the founding members of Afrilabs, a network of African innovation hubs across the continent.co-founder Barbara Birungi has stated that she’s passionate about how technology can change the future of Africa, particularly for women.
iHub provides a space where young entrepreneurial members can receive mentorship, WiFi access and opportunities for venture funding through connections with the international venture capital community. Founded in March 2010 by blogger, TED Fellow and entrepreneur Erick Hersman. iHub has a number of initiatives designed to build an ecosystem around the Kenyan tech entrepreneur: iHub Research, iHub Consulting, iHub Supercomputing Cluster, and the iHub User Experience (UX) Lab.
AfriLabs (Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, and Senegal)
Unlike most business incubators that are founded by individuals, Afrilabs was founded by a group of other incubators. African tech hubs IHub, ActiveSpaces, NaiLab, BantaLabs, and HiveColab. AfriLabs described as a pan-African work of technology and innovation hubs promoting the growth and development of the African technology sector. The labs serve as an accessible platform for bringing together technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in the area. Each lab shares a focus on young entrepreneurs, web and mobile programmers, and designers.
ActivSpaces is a tech hub with two coworking spaces and an incubator program called Activation Boot Camp. The co-working space is free to tech entrepreneurs who are actively working on a startup. Activation Boot Camp is a highly selective rigorous six-month acceleration program. The incubator supports startups by providing them with an office space, internet connection, business coaching, and a community of likeminded individuals and experts. ActivSpaces’ accelerator program helps startups to secure investments by aligning them with mentors, assisting them in incorporation, helping them in driving growth, and providing seed funding for their operations. Thereafter, ActiveSpaces introduces them to their network of investors.
Botswana Innovation Hub (Botswana)
The Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) was incorporated to develop and operate a science and technology park to aid in diversifying the economy and help transform Botswana into a knowledge economy. BIH promotes research, development, education and innovation; supports start-ups and existing companies; and attracts companies, universities, research institutes and advanced training institutes. The hub’s focus sectors include ICT, mining technology, bio technology, energy and environment.
Based in Lusaka, BongoHive is Zambia’s first technology and innovation hub. The Hive was established in May 2011 to address the gaps the co-founders experienced working within the local technology industry leading to a lack of coordination, skills exposure and productivity. BongoHive has evolved to assist scalable startups of any background by enhancing skills, accelerating growth, strengthening networks, increasing collaboration, providing a forum for ideas exchange and reducing the barriers to entrepreneurship.
CcHub is a social innovation hub dedicated to accelerating the application of social capital and technology for economic prosperity. CcHUB is Nigeria’s first open living lab and pre-incubation space designed to be a multi-functional, multi-purpose space where work to catalyze creative social tech ventures take place. The HUB is a place for technologists, social entrepreneurs, government, tech companies, impact investors and hackers in and around Lagos to co-create new solutions to the many social problems in Nigeria.
Established in May 2011, iceaddis is Ethiopia’s first innovation hub and coworking space. It develops youth-driven private sector initiatives and facilitates constructive interaction between techies, entrepreneurs, investors and people from the creative industries “ice”, an acronym for “Innovation Collaboration Entrepreneurship,” is a self-sufficient technology innovation and business incubation center aiming at supporting Ethiopia’s economic growth by tightening the constructive interaction between researchers, developers, entrepreneurs, creative workers and by promoting local technological solutions to the public. The collaborative work environment facilitates creative projects and events, and serves as a support system for young entrepreneurs and, local and visiting creatives.
Working in the difficult conditions of post-Ebola Monrovia, iLab Liberia is a non-profit computer laboratory providing access to cutting-edge technology, expert IT assistance and a community leveraging technology for the good of Liberia. iLab offers free training courses in contextually relevant technologies that are open to the public. iLab also hosts tech events and serves as a meet-up space for a range of tech enthusiasts and professionals. It also boasts the fastest public internet connection in the country.
ImpactHub Accra (Ghana)
ImpactHub Accra’s goal is to support inclusive growth in Ghana through the creation of a resilient and dynamic social innovation ecosystem by developing programs, providing workspace, access to capital and connecting entrepreneurs focused on creating sustainable solutions to regional challenges in employment, financial inclusion, agriculture, health and education.
Through their hackathons, pitch competitions, and design thinking workshops, the hub stirs up new conversations and gets energetic entrepreneurs talking about the next big ideas. One of the most promising new venture is its recently- established health innovation program. The program has a vision of creating a vibrant, pan-African health innovation ecosystem and overseeing all health-related programming, including hackathons, pitch competitions, and social enterprise acceleration.
Anza Business Incubator (Tanzania)
Anza, is a business incubator in Moshi, Tanzania that provides a range of services to start, support, and scale local social impact businesses. Anza exists to catalyse economic empowerment and community benefit in Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro region by partnering with aspiring entrepreneurs to incubate and accelerate social enterprises. Anza’s focus is the many communities in the Kilimanjaro region that desperately need more economic activity. Communities that are unlikely to have the opportunity for large scale employment and which often, depend on the number, vitality, and civic-mindedness of small businesses. In addition to this pressing community need, there are many individuals who are motivated and excited to launch businesses but who have not yet had access to the kind of training and mentorship necessary to flourish. Anza’s mission is to bring together high-quality, technical support from the UK, Canada, and Tanzania to create a high-impact social enterprise incubator. Anza is committed to forming partnerships with all segments of the business and broader community in the Kilimanjaro Region and beyond.
While we applaud the efforts to support Africa’s burgeoning business environment, its worthy noting, that the majority of African incubators focus on leveraging resources for tech entrepreneur. Without resources for aspiring entrepreneurs outside the tech sector, there is a large gap that future business incubators will need to address in order to allow more small businesses to launch, survive and grow to support African development.