A New Silicon Valley? Tech Hubs Spring Up in Africa
Friday, April 6, 2012
When thinking of tech hubs, Africa doesn’t exactly spring to mind. But the continent has had some amazing spurts of open innovation, with 45 collaborative hubs now open.
Africa faces some hurdles in developing information technology. Even though global Internet penetration is about 32%, it’s lower in Africa, where only around 11% of the population have access to the Internet through a computer or mobile phone. Within the continent, too, there are enormous divides. While a country like Nigeria has 28% of its population online, Ethiopia has less than 1%. But all that is changing: Internet usage in Africa has grown faster than on any other continent over the past decade.
So what exactly do tech hubs do? In the African continent, they train, connect, and encourage innovation. Here’s a closer look:
MELTWATER ENTREPRENEURIAL SCHOOL OF TECHNOLOGY: GHANA
A nonprofit starts a school to train the next generation of tech entrepreneurs–and then funds their projects. Meltwater graduated its first 20 students in 2010 and 20 more last year. The graduates can then use seed funding of between $30,000 and $200,000 to develop software businesses that will reach both Ghanaian and global markets.
One example of a recent startup is Dropifi, a web messaging platform which helps companies better analyze, visualize, and respond to incoming messages from contacts. Last fall it took top honors at the Accra Startup Weekend.
One of the first tech hubs in Sub-Saharan Africa, ActivSpaces serves to engineer socially responsible investment and the incubation of African small and medium-sized enterprises. One thing Cameroon has going for it? A ballooning population of young people–40% under the age of 15–many of whom are online and engaged.
One example of a project is Bisou, a motion-activated streetlamp. When motion is detected, the light comes on and a piece of music or a public service announcement can be played, helping out parts of cities that can’t afford to keep the lights on all the time, but want to reduce crime.