World Bank-funded tech hub upskilling, scaling Ghanain startups

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The World Bank-funded Ghana Tech Lab is working to upskill and scale local startups through a variety of different programmes, focusing in niche specialties such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.

Formed under the E-Transform Project of the Ghanaian Ministry of Communications, Ghana Tech Lab was founded with US$1.2 million of World Bank money in a bid to support the country’s digital transformation and address developmental challenges.

It has multiple goals – to train a young, digital workforce, provide early-stage investments, and grow Ghanaian tech startups – and has thus far been responsible for implementing the robotics and coding component of the E-Transform programme. It is made up of a creative space, a makerspace, and a robotics lab.

Co-founder Price Sarfo told Disrupt Africa the hub has two types of programmes, Base and Non-Base.

“The Base programme is a flagship programme, focused on growing grassroots innovations. This programme gives digital skills to trainees that will equip them with the necessary tools to develop ideas. This is done in partnership with 11 partner hubs in nine regions of Ghana,” he said.

The three-month programme is developed based on conversations with key ecosystem and industry players to ascertain the main gaps they have come across, with Ghana Tech Lab designing its curriculum accordingly.  

“Through the stakeholder meeting, Ghana Tech Lab is able to gather information about the kind of digital skills needs and the gaps in the country, and address them,” Sarfo said.

Its current programme is based around AI, with the process concluding with a local hackathon where trainees have the opportunity to pitch ideas they have come up with during the training. The best ideas then proceed to the GTLincubator. 

“These teams are incubated with startup funding, expert coaching, and industry exposure to build their ideas into feasible startups,” said Sarfo.

“Internships are secured with relevant industries for the remaining trainees that do not make it into the incubator programme.”

The hub’s Non-Base programmes, meanwhile, are free training programmes organised to equip individuals on a particular digital skillset. These individuals are not provided with incubation, but in some cases an internship.

So far, 11 startups have passed through the incubator programme, all mobile application companies in categories such as healthcare, agri-tech and fintech, and this number will soon grow once the 28 AI startup ideas graduate from the Base programme. Sarfo said the plan is for Ghana Tech Lab to scale its impact still further.

“With new partners coming on board, we are going to equip our partner hubs with tools and more expertise to continuously run the Base programme,” he said.

“We are looking at developing an ecosystem mapping in the various regions to assist us to run programmes that are tailored to the needs of these regions. We are also working on various partnerships to better assist the various startup ideas that come on board and expose them more to the advanced world of tech entrepreneurship.”

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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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