Friday July 12, 2019
The number of tech hubs across Africa has grown by nearly 50% over the past year.
As startup and innovation culture deepens across the continent with success stories ranging from big-ticket funding rounds to a billion-dollar IPO, tech hubs are sprouting across the continent. A joint report by the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator program and Briter Bridges identifies 618 active tech hubs across the continent. GSMA said there were 442 active hubs on the continent in March 2018, which was up from 314 in 2016.
The report defines tech hubs as organizations with physical addresses which offer support and facilities for tech entrepreneurs. As such, it includes incubators, accelerators, university-based innovation hubs, maker spaces, technology parks, and co-working spaces in its categorization.
Nigeria and South Africa—home to the continent’s most valuable tech ecosystems—continue to lead the way for tech hub presence. Lagos is ranked as the leading innovative city by number of hubs: over the past two years, the city has welcomed hubs led by major innovation stakeholders including Facebook and Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST).
But, keeping up with an established trend, the report also notes “several non-capital cities are emerging as new, sophisticated cradles of innovation.” As such, the diffusion of innovation culture means that several African countries have main cities where tech ecosystems are developed as well as “secondary, fast-growing satellite ones.”
Regionally, Francophone Africa has “shown rapid signs of awakening,” after years seeming off the pace of growth seen across the rest of the continent. The region’s emergence comes amid efforts, led especially by angel investors, to bridge the funding gap that exists between the region and Anglophone Africa.
In several African countries, tech hubs are thriving and fostering innovation despite factors like conflict and unreliable internet access: Somalia’s first tech innovation hub opened in 2017 while Ethiopian startups are learning to survive amid continued internet shutdowns by the government. But elsewhere, startup culture has been fostered by proactive government policy like in Tunisia where a Startup Act was passed last year to provide institutional support, including corporate tax exemptions.
There are also growing signs that tech hubs on the continent are starting to specialize and expand beyond individual ecosystems: in February, Co-Creation Hub, one of the Nigeria’s pioneer innovation hubs, launched a design hub in Kigali, Rwanda.