Just like the saying goes: “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. You will agree to the lone fact that the revitalization of Africa’s economy has been attributed to the leading advancements in technology. The crucial factor that has played a prime role in this development can be attributed to the rise of tech hubs, especially in Africa. Over the years, hubs have become major players in the growth of entrepreneurship on the continent and for Africa’s innovation economy to grow even bigger than it currently is, tech hubs have to clearly understand how to play their part today.
The role innovation hubs have been playing in catalyzing the debate on technology across Africa over the past years has led more and more stakeholders, ranging from governments to the private sector, to further investigate the work these organizations do and the challenges they face in providing portfolio companies with the right type and degree of support, whilst also achieving ﬁnancial sustainability.
As of October 2019, the number of hubs identiﬁed across Africa is 643, which includes co-working spaces, incubators, accelerators, and hybrid innovation hubs aﬃliated with government, universities, or corporates. It is important to note that around 25% of the total do not seem to oﬀer any type of support to companies other than providing physical, o en shared facilities for entrepreneurs to work safely and hassle-free. The research also identiﬁes over 110 hubs that have shut operations in the last few years due to bankruptcy, pivoting or the expiration of their mandate.
This is eminent as it is on the rise especially in Nigeria and Africa at Large. But then: What are tech hubs? How do they work? How can upcoming startups and developers benefit from this phenomenon?
What is a Tech Hub?
Just like the computer network hub, a connection point for devices in a network (Webopedia, 2018), the term ‘tech hub’ is simply a physical space (can be remote), a city, a suburb (like computer village Lagos), or a collective suite of offices whose aim is geared to help technology stay companies succeed, and scale-up.
Tech hubs create an environment specifically targeting the up build of young technology companies thrive by encouraging: incubation, fast-tracking, helping such firms network and collaborate with like-minded individuals or enterprises.
A tech hub is a community that promotes innovation for technology-based companies. The collection of like-minded individuals working in various business sectors but focused on the use of technology creates a unique environment where individuals, ideas and the companies that support both can thrive.
A tech hub can cover a large geographic area – you may be familiar with the Silicon Valley in California, but just as often, tech hubs are found in single buildings or clusters of buildings as is the case in Buffalo, NY with Seneca One. Tech hubs like Seneca One are unique in that they offer the same benefits of geographically dispersed hubs but condense the activity, which increases the potential for meetings, collaborations, and general camaraderie among tech-minded employees.
The major goal of a tech hub is to grow ideas.
What Do They Need?
For a tech hub to thrive there are a lot of impending criteria that must be met so as to establish its relative productivity. One basic factor is a steady supply of permanent and temporary suitable workers, a means of generating revenue, relatively high-speed internet access, robust infrastructure, location, transport, the relative proximity of access, friendliness of the hub, and total coordinated organization.
So you see that a lot is definitely entailed to grow a hub.
Where Are The Best Hubs Located?
For decades, the Silicon Valley model has progressively transformed the way innovation and entrepreneurship are viewed globally.
This has inspired technology-minded individuals to form clusters, across various geographical regions, to collectively shape the world with technological innovation that mirrors that of Silicon Valley.
In all this transformation, one cannot overemphasize the role tech hubs play; seeing as they’ve become irremovable elements in creating successful businesses and, likewise, entrepreneurs. Today, they are major go-to places, both for investors who seek investible startups and individuals seeking to nurse their great idea to fruition.
Remember, that the best-known tech hub is probably Silicon Valley, based in California USA. Here you can find the big boys (companies) in the tech industry: Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Intel, Tesla, and major startups many of these were founded here.
In Nigeria for instance, there are numerous tech hubs all over the region. You can explore them when you visit Ehubber Nigeria.
How and Who Can Benefit From Tech Hubs?
While you might feel that only software and web developer are the most prime people to benefit from the establishment of tech hubs, you will be surprised to note that a lot of unskilled individuals are more likely on a ratio of 3:5 to gain immense experience from tech hubs.
Government agencies are really poised to gain knowledge because tech hubs offer a wide angle of disseminated technologies, backgrounds, workgroups, personalities, and ideas. The core truth is that even companies seeking skilled personnel to assist their companies can get a handful from reliable tech hubs across the continent.
So it’s a win-win. Tech hubs are for everyone, and by everyone. As the saying in the introduction of this article: “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, Nigeria has had a decent share of tech advancement due to the increase in tech hubs, we have seen more open-minded individuals come up in terms of technical challenges and even advocacy groups. The GitHub benchmark is a prime example of how poised and raging Nigeria and Africa are becoming towards Open Source development and knowledge sharing. In it all, tech hubs are just like the library, you gain resources, experience, and exposure.
At least 643 hubs, which include coworking spaces, incubators, accelerators, hybrid hubs with aﬃliations to universities and/or governments, as well as maker spaces and technology parks, were identiﬁed as of October 2019 across 50+ African countries. 25% of these hubs only oﬀer coworking facilities and no speciﬁc business support program for startups and entrepreneurs, but the majority of almost 500 of the hubs provide some degree of in-kind or cash support.
Because almost half of the existing hubs consist of non-proﬁt organizations or donor-funded organizations, the discussion around ﬁnancing received and the allocation of funds has been crucial. 60% of all respondents claimed to receive external funding and, among the donors, corporatesponsors, philanthropicorganizations, and NGOs have proven to be the most active funders.
The majority of hubs surveyed claimed to have received less than $100,000 in funding from various sources. Several hubs establish strategic aﬃliations with corporates, which o en include a degree of asset sharing such as cloud, servers, optic ﬁber, and the like. Several hubs also partner with their local government or international subsidiaries to get support for their activities. According to the surveyed hubs, the majority of funding received is largely used to cover operational costs and programs. Wages and facilities still present the highest costs on average, whilst energy and rent-related costs vary respectively depending on whether the hubs are located in areas with unreliable access to electricity or in costly neighborhoods.
So next time you think about a tech hub, what comes to your mind?
Definitely, you will remark a tech hub as a ‘catalyst’ in crucial development. So go find a tech hub around you and innovate! — (winks)