African tech hubs should not try to replicate Silicon Valley


African tech hubs and incubators should not try to replicate Silicon Valley as the conditions on the ground are totally different.

That was according to panellists at the recent AHUB startup event held in Cape Town.

Maxime Bayen, senior insights manager at the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator, said tech hubs across Africa provided four basic elements that allow startups to grow: space, electricity, connectivity and community.

This, he said, was very different to how hubs worked in Silicon Valley.

“It is different to what Silicon Valley looks like. Comparing with Silicon Valley is not really relevant. You’re not going to recreate that, and the needs are very different here,” Bayen said.

“I don’t think we should replicate. Each of the hubs have specificities, and there is no copy pasting. Tech hubs are very much a local phenomenon.”

Derrick Kotze, chief executive officer (CEO) of mlab Southern Africa, agreed, saying Africa was a very different animal to the United States (US).

“The challenges are different here which means the ways of solving them are quite unique. This is a massive market; Africa is huge,” he said.

Kotze called for more collaboration between tech hubs across the continent if the impact was to be as big as it could be.

“There should be cooperation between the tech hubs. Everyone is still defining what value to bring through these collaborations,” he said.

“More of it needs to happen. I’m hoping what happens provides more fast landings for startups across the continent.”

Tim Harris, CEO of Wesgro, also sounded a note of caution about comparing African tech hubs with Silicon Valley, but said it could be positive in terms of publicity.

“The problem with branding something “Silicon” anything is that you are saying you want to be like Silicon Valley. But that is not going to happen anywhere in the world. But it is immediately clear what you are trying to do,” he said.


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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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