The year in African tech hubs – 2016

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Tech hubs are booming across Africa – at Disrupt Africa, we estimate there to be over 300 hubs operating continent wide. And there is no slow down in activity. In fact, the availability and work of tech hubs on the continent is intensifying. Here, we look back at the year in African tech hubs.

We opened the year with the news that Angola’s KiandaHub was seeking funding to build out a co-working space for local entrepreneurs to move into. Managing director Joel Epalanga said the group of entrepreneurs had been meeting in restaurants and coffee shops, but had realised the Angolan startup ecosystem would not develop without a central space for entrepreneurs to be based.

In Nigeria, Venia Group announced the opening of a second co-working space in Lagos with the capacity to host 120 entrepreneurs, building on the success of the company’s first office space.

Collaborative hub for next generation financial services entrepreneurs, AlphaCode, also launched in Sandton, Johannesburg in January, providing a platform for members to engage and work alongside experienced entrepreneurs, technology investors and industry experts.

In February we introduced Nigeria’s new innovation space nHub, based in northern Nigerian city Jos. The hub hopes to turn Jos into one of Africa’s key tech outsourcing locations.

We also said hello to Kenya’s Sote Hub, based in rural Taita Taveta county, which aims to give aspiring young entrepreneurs hard and soft skills to enable them to build out successful startups.

In March we got the news non-profit legal research and advisory firm HiiL was launching the Innovating Justice Hub in Lagos, Nigeria, providing a working space where entrepreneurs and technology innovators can meet up and find solutions to issues surrounding justice in West Africa.

Lots happened in Kenya, too.  Innovation space iHub announced it had raised funding from a number of local investors in order to help it scale operations, tighten up its service offerings and reach sustainability.

Makerspace Gearbox became ready to open the doors of its Lite incubator to the public having installed the bulk of its equipment; offering member hardware enthusiasts access to equipment, tools, knowledge, advice, incubation and funding.

A raft of new co-working spaces opened continent-wide in March. Cape Town saw  the opening of Work & Co. Ghana’s second city Kumasi received a vote of confidence, as IT company Hapaweb Solutions launched hapaSpace, to help small businesses share the costs of office space. In Nigeria, the Cranium One co-working space opened its doors on Victoria Island in Lagos.

April kicked off with the announcement the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi) was launching an innovation cluster and hub in Cape Town to foster and promote development in travel technology.

We welcomed the news Kenya’s innovation space iHub was hosting the first Nairobi Tech Week, bringing together the tech community to “network, pitch products and services, and learn”.

The Nigerian co-working market was shaken up in May. Lagos-based cre8, which claims to be Nigeria’s first fintech hub, offered startups in the financial technology space free work space; while tech and innovation space Co-Creation Hub (CcHub) also announced free access to its co-working space.

June saw more progress. Lagos-based co-working space CapitalSquare expanded its operations with the launch of the second space in the Ikoyi area of the city – The Studio.

Kenya’s iHub continued its whirlwind of action, announcing a hunt for a chief executive officer (CEO) to help scale operations, tighten service offerings and reach sustainability.

Meanwhile in South Africa, US multinational GE opened a ZAR500 million (US$32. million), 2,700m2, innovation centre in Johannesburg, with the mission of unearthing innovative solutions “for Africa, by Africans”.

Things went quiet for a while, but September bounced back into action – the Wits Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct opened its doors in Johannesburg, following three years of planning and development. The new premises offers startup incubation, digital skills training, and research opportunities.

Pan-African network of tech hubs AfriLabs announced a series of five meetings across the continent, featuring brainstorming sessions to identify projects that can be worked on through collaboration on a regional level.

In October, Nigerian tech accelerator firm Passion Incubator opened its co-working space in Lagos, revealing plans to add more locations.

In north-western Nigeria’s state of Kaduna, CoLab opened its doors – claiming to be the region’s first tech innovation space -, offering working space, mentorship and training to local startups.

African technology accelerator Sw7 opened what it says is the first technology innovation hub in the Johannesburg northern suburbs, accommodating around 100 entrepreneurs.

AfriLabs held its annual gathering in Accra, Ghana, allowing representatives of the African innovation ecosystem to share ideas.

November saw two new co-working spaces open in Nigeria. Lagos got its newest co-working space, V8, in Lekki; while Fastlaunch offers a space for family-run businesses.

Nearing the end of the year, but no slow down. In December, global entrepreneurship community Mettā launched its members-only club in Nairobi, opening the doors to a dedicated space for entrepreneurs and investors to network and collaborate.

Kenya’s iHub closed the year in style, with two bits of December news: first, the innovation space relocated to Hurlingham; and then, it announced the launch of a fund to invest in startups from across Africa.

Good year, in our estimation!

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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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