African universities are increasingly playing a part in encouraging student-led tech startups, in the hope that young people can become job creators.
These new initiatives across the continent are replicating successful models from abroad, such as the US knowledge regions of Route 128 – which developed around MIT – and the renowned Silicon Valley, which developed around Stanford University.
University incubators and initiatives have can have enormous benefits for a startup – just ask G-J van Rooyen, chief executive officer (CEO) of South African startup Custos Media Technologies. Here are seven universities ensuring students have all the tools to launch and grow successful businesses.
University of Nairobi
One of the most entrepreneur-friendly universities on the continent. UoN’s C4DLab is an incubator-cum-accelerator that has run a number of key initiatives and events, and seems to sign a high-level new partnership each week. The lab’s latest accelerator is based on the Internet of Things (IoT), while UNICEF and Intel are key partners. Also behind Nairobi Innovation Week.
The LaunchLab at Stellenbosch University in South Africa incubates a number of startups run by students and faculty members. It runs a number of competitions, such as the Ideas Programme, the Pitching Platform, and a recent media challenge with MultiChoice. The university’s industry interaction and innovation company Innovus also provides investment for some startups.
Another Nairobi-based institution making waves for local startups. Research centre @iLabAfrica is driving local innovation, with selected companies eligible for incubation at @iBizAfrica. The university runs a number of events and challenges, and is now doing its bit to promote the development of legal-tech in East Africa.
University of Cape Town
UCT has an on-campus incubator, the MTN Solution Space, but its activities go a lot further. It hosts a number of events and projects, including the recent MTN Entrepreneurship Challenge, and also offers scholarships to prospective entrepreneurs. Funding is also available from time to time, while its also has a specialised unit focused on entrepreneurship in the form of the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
American University in Cairo
In 2013, the AUC launched the first university-based incubator in Egypt, the AUC Venture Lab. So far the lab has worked with 46 high potential startups and helped them launch their businesses. Completed its latest cycle at the end of last year, with 12 incubated startups showcasing their products.
Another South African university supporting local tech startups. Hosted the #Hack.Jozi Challenge, but also has its own initiatives. The university hosted an app challenge last year in the hope of encouraging the development of student apps, and has also partnered Canada’s Ryerson University and the Bombay Stock Exchange Institute in India to launch incubator Zone Startups.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Not an African university, admittedly, but MIT is still doing its bit for the African startup scene. Has held a Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, open to African startups, but has also brought its activities to African shores. Startups from Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia were winners at the MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition, earlier this year, while the university recently took its Global Startups Labs programme to South Africa.