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In Numbers: Africa’s Tech Landscape Grows with 442 Active Hub

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Lagos, with 31 hubs, has now become one of the African cities with the fastest growing number of technology hubs.

The number of active technology and innovation hubs across Africa has reached 442 according to a GSM Association 2018 Report.

Potentially, the City is leading innovation hub on the continent, especially after MEST, Google and Facebook announced the opening of local tech hubs between 2017 and 2018, following the report captured by Macjordangh.com.

The report shows South Africa maintained the lead with 59 hubs up from 54 indicated in last year’s report. However, Nigeria is fast closing the gap.

The number of tech hubs in Nigeria jumped from 23 to 55 by close of 2016 and 2017 respectively.

In numbers, here is how the African tech hub ecosystem has grown (*the infographics are culled from Macjordangh.com‘s report.

  • 47% represent tech hubs operated by incubators 
  • 26% Co-Working spaces
  • 27% are accounted for by other tech hubs Fastest Growing Ecosystem (2016-2018) & Top 5 Ecosystem Cities by Number of Active Tech Hubs:
  • Give it to DR Congo, Zambia, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo and Nigeria.

Mobile Operators form pillar of supports to the tech hubs:

Five Countries share 45% of the ecosystem that were opened not less than five years ago and the popularity swell on social media too:

 

Leading alliances:

According to GSMA, a tech hub is a “physical spaces designed to foster and support tech start-ups”. They adopted this definition in 2016 when they first carried out research on this topic.

The definition covers incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, fab labs, maker spaces, hackerspaces, and other innovation centres. Growth has been registered across almost all countries on the continent where the study was carried out.

“In Africa, countries like Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, for instance, have experienced a significant growth in the number of active tech hubs over the past year,” wrote Maxime Bayen from GSMA. Adding that “since 2016, the Ghanaian ecosystem – home to hubs such as MEST and iSpace – has grown by 50% (from 16 to 24).”

“Similarly, Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire has gradually positioned itself as the new catalyst of innovation across Francophone Africa and has seen its number of active tech hubs double. Zimbabwe (13) and Uganda (20) led the way in ‘tier 2’ ecosystems in Southern and East Africa respectively.”

Also important to note is that Lagos has now taken over as the leading ecosystem city in Africa with 31 active tech hubs.

“Lagos has now taken over as the African city with the highest number of tech hubs (31) and potentially the leading innovation hub on the continent, especially after MEST, Google and Facebook announced the opening of local tech hubs between 2017 and 2018,” says Maxime.

In a telephone interview with TechEconomy.ng, the Founder and Chief Promoter of StartUp Arewa, Mohammed Jega, lauded the report as a reflection of growth in the technology ecosystem on the Continent.

He however, shares the view of a need to expand technology investment beyond mega cities like Lagos, Abuja and/or Port Harcourt.

“This report by GSMA is good in the sense that we are beginning to see data with regards technological growth in Africa.

“Nevertheless, it is also a reflection of one-sided growth. You can believe that recently I visited Ibadan which is very close to Lagos based on proximity, but the tech startups there are not ‘cared’ for. They are not motivated, but this is a city very close to the mega city- Lagos. It is high time we looked inwards”.

Jega opined that there is less advocacy for technology innovations in other regions of the country. “Lagos has packaged themselves using the media and they have made it seem that outside Lagos you can’t succeed.

“I have met some Investors and they express this kind of position that when you go to South there are militants and when you move upwards there is Boko Haram. That’s why at Startup Arewa we are engaging on sensitization for investors and the government to appreciate other regions. Lagos as a city has much burdens on it shoulders which warrants that other regions should be unlocked for even economic distribution, technologically speaking.

“Technology does not understand religion or region. At startup Arewa for instance, nobody has given us N1; this year we have seven boothcamps in seven cities in the North and I am using personal resources to do it. We have to repackage the startup ecosystem to develop other regions.

“We see clusters growing; even at States level but a lot of them lack capacity to grow. That is where the Government comes in. They can help in promoting the young startups; let them join you during business trips abroad to market the ecosystem, instead of engaging in jamboree.

Nodding in agreement, the Convener of StartupSouth, Uche Aniche, said that the report shows the ecosystem is growing, but needs to be evenly distributed

“Yes, it actually shows the tech ecosystem is growing. First, Nigeria should know that other countries aren’t sleeping. Look at the part were DR Congo, Morroco and others are expanding very fast.

“Internally, the report is indicting the ecosystem. It reflects what we have been saying that other regions should be given opportunity and supported too. There is large concentration of attention in one place which is not good for national growth,” he said.

He however believes that the report should spur other regions in Nigeria to action. “Concentrating resources in one place negatively impacts the economy of scale, but you can’t tell the investors where to put their money. It is left for you to prepare the ground for them to come. That is what Startupsouth has been doing and we are seeing results already.

The commentators agree that the Government has a role to play in unlocking other regions for even technologically development.