The year in African incubators

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Whatever your startup’s niche or regional focus, there will be an African incubator on hand for mentorship, support in growing your business, and often, even for funding.  Here Disrupt Africa recaps the highlights of activity at incubators across Africa.

The first day of 2015 was met by Nigerian billionaire Tony Elumelu throwing open the doors for applications to the US$100 million Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP).  1,000 entrepreneurs from across Africa were accepted onto the programme.

Cameroon’s ActivSpaces also got the year off to a quick start, opening applications for its six-month accelerator, Activation Bootcamp.

Kenyan incubator Nailab announced the five startups selected for its fifth cohort, and promptly got the five-month programme under way.

11 Kenyan startups and 12 South African startups were selected to take part in the Green Pioneer Accelerator, aimed at assisting green entrepreneurs in scaling their businesses and offering the chance to earn EUR50,000 (US$58,000) in funding.  The inaugural classes graduated in May.

The African Leadership Network (ALN) chose nine startups to join its inaugural nine-month accelerator programme, offering each startup US$20,000 funding as well as advice from sector-specific experts.

Cape Town-based high growth investment company Knife Capital confirmed the 13 startups for its Grindstone accelerator programme, running for its second year.

On the other hand, pan-African investment fund 88mph began what proved to be a controversial year by announcing a departure from its usual accelerator model. 88mph scrapped its three-month residential programme in favour of a new one-week programme, DealWeek.

In February, South Africa was greeted with the news that Johannesburg-based accelerator Seed Engine had merged with Europe’s Startupbootcamp, with the partners fundraising to host accelerator programmes in South Africa.

Cape Town-based accelerator programme StartUp90 selected eight startups for its second cohort, from among 86 applicants.

Non-profit organisation Spark South Africa announced two accelerator programmes; SHE to be hosted in Johannesburg, aimed at accelerating female-led ventures that support women and girls in South Africa, and a Cape Town accelerator for early-stage social entrepreneurs.

The Unreasonable East Africa incubator picked 12 early-stage startups from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and South Sudan to take part in its programme, with the ventures building solutions to the region’s biggest social and environmental problems.

In April, Dutch NGO Spark launched the Africa House business incubator and entrepreneurship development centre in Hargeisa, Somalia, the first such project in the Somali regions.

In Kenya, Village Capital selected 12 startups to join its FinTech for Agriculture accelerator programme, two of which ultimately walked away with US$50,000 each in funding.

April also saw a flurry of activity by corporates in South Africa. Standard Bank launched two business incubators aiming to support entrepreneurs and “keep up” with innovation; MTN Business launched a three-year business incubation programme aimed at ICT startups; and Microsoft BizSpark and Standard Bank partnered local accelerator Sw7 to co-host its nine-week, mentor-led programmes.

Kenya-based accelerator programme Savannah Fund announced its fourth cohort in May, with four startups picked from 150 applications to receive between US$25,000 and US$30,000 investment.

The Ghana-based Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) expanded into Kenya for the first time, recruiting Kenyan entrepreneurs to join its one-year in Accra.  Nine Kenyans were duly selected to join the next cohort. Kenya is only the second international market MEST has expanded to; the other being Nigeria. Plans for a South African launch are in the pipeline for 2016.

In June, Zimbabwean incubator Muzinda Hub started offering digital services to the market, with the first graduates of its 1,000-strong inaugural cohort ready to take on work.  Also graduating was the first cohort of the iDEA Nigeria incubator, hosting a Demo Day.

88mph popped up again half way through the year, announcing it has decided to stop investing in startups in Africa for at least two years.

Two new programmes launched in East Africa in June. Rwandan tech incubator think announced the launch of a new three-month incubator, think Accelerated, and picked four startups for the inaugural programme; and SPRING announced the 18 participants chosen for its inaugural programme in East Africa, selecting promising entrepreneurs with products or services that could transform the lives of adolescent girls.

July saw Barclays Africa launch Tech Lab Africa, a 13-week accelerator programme aimed at providing 10 fintech and e-health startups with access to business mentors, industry leaders, influencers and experts.

Kenya’s Nailab kept itself busy, kicking off its sixth cohort – the second of the year – in September with six startups.  iDEA Nigeria also began its second programme of the year, selecting four startups.

In October we found out the Niger Delta region would get a new incubator, FocusHub, which opened applications for its first incubator programme.

Barclays also opened applications for a Cape Town edition of its accelerator for fintech startups, set for next year, and run in partnership with Techstars.

November saw Village Capital and Kenyan makerspace Gearbox announce the 10 African startups to take up places in their Nairobi-based hardware accelerator, after which two companies will walk away with US$50,000 each in funding.

Nigeria’s iDEA also welcomed a further eight startups into its incubator in November.

Over the last quarter of the year, the AMPION Venture Bus ran four programmes around Africa, concluding its trips in South Africa.

And finally to finish off the year, Paris-based incubator NUMA expanded its operations to Africa, launching in Casablanca, Morocco, saying the country was an obvious gateway to establishing operations across the rest of the continent.  The incubator will get to work as of January.

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Inspired and excited by the African tech entrepreneurial scene, Gabriella spends her time travelling around the continent to report on the most innovative tech startups, the most active investors, and the latest trends emerging in the ecosystem.

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