Tech hubs have always been the go-to for idea thinkers, tech entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts as well as industry experts – all for the purpose of birthing innovation to solve some of society’s most pressing problems. Africa could use more of these centres, and that is precisely why technology firms are rolling out initiatives to bring technology to the heart of the continent in a bid to foster innovation and place the continent on the world map of development.
Today, prosperity, growth, longevity, and innovation seem to be the words communities want to be known for as these phrases attract new residents and companies, foster economic expansion and ultimately bring about job creation. There are lots of literature about economically thriving regions, and an element that always sets itself apart is the emergence as well as the functionality of collaborative centres. A place that encourages ideas, cultivate concepts and translates innovation and creativity into tangible results.
Technology hubs have drawn high densities of startup companies, clustering them alongside techies to become part of the economic infrastructure of their communities. Tech hubs are places where things happen at a faster pace, creating an avenue for ideation and product development to be streamlined.
Corporates, nowadays, also want to join the bandwagon and gather the needed minds to help transform robust ideas into reality. Being that these centres educate and encourage fresh talent alongside thinking channels, they advertently provide spaces where high-tech business growth can be accelerated maximally and bring prosperity to the community.
As regards the prosperity angle of these developments, multinationals and region-specific organizations are beginning to see reasons why tech hubs should never stop emerging in Africa. The idea may sound utopian and idealistic, but when companies such as Google approach it from a level, it surely will become the hotspot for all things innovative.
In many ways, what makes Africa so perfect for new technology is the lack of infrastructure in many parts of the continent. And looking to build on this lack, even Toshiba wants to get in the good books. Corporates are beginning to finally understand that startups are of immense importance to the digital world, as their networks or ecosystems interact with each other to develop existing solutions and create new ones.
Tech hubs, as well as incubators, accelerators and collaborative spaces that bolster these startups, are forthwith immensely intrinsic to the success of tech ecosystems – and that’s exactly why tech hubs are so important.
The number of these centres in the continent has leaped from 314 in 2016 to 442 this year, and we have the interest of corporates and private individuals to thank for this digital advancement. Clearly, a reflection of the figures and coming from a variety of media reports, the African tech space has truly noticed the giant hub strides brought on by Alibaba, Facebook, and the likes not just to drive their products but also upheave industry.
It doesn’t matter whether the acoustics are a bit over-tweaked; all we know is that countries such as Senegal, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Kenya, and Zimbabwe have all seen more local tech hubs launched over the past two years. The most substantial growth so far has been in Nigeria, where the number went up from 23 in 2016 to 55 this year, putting the country on par with South Africa, which currently has at least 59 active hubs.
For some time now, names such as Flat6Labs, Nairobi Garage, New Work Labs (Morocco) RLabs (South Africa) and Nigeria’s Vibranium Valley have comprised the lyrics of the African tech hub melodies sung by a compendium of media powerhouses. But that is not yet the end of the road – if at all there is any.
Recently, it was the Japanese technology giant Toshiba who had announced its intentions to open a base in West Africa, adding that it is considering the exact location to be Nigeria. This information was divulged in a technical seminar organized by Toshiba in Abuja, in partnership with Blue Ocean.
The Regional Manager (West Africa) of Residential and Light Commercial of Toshiba, Iminder Singh, who made the announcement, said that Toshiba had been in the reception of positive and encouraging responses from the Federal Government of Nigeria, which would likely affect the choice for the location of their West African tech hub. Toshiba is not the first to make such an intention known, as Google has also announced its intention to launch its first African AI centre in Ghana.
Through the technical seminar on the Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF), Super Modular Multi-System Inverter Air-Conditioning, and a host of other products, Toshiba will avail a basis to understand the kind and level of investments required by the West African region. The company intends to bring a solution to West African countries in need of their kind of technology and product to alleviate the heavy burden on their natural resources. The tech giant has also declared that the funds required to pursue investing in Nigeria would be provided in due time.
The company tasked the FG to assist Toshiba in setting up a Nigerian office, and so far the response has been encouraging because the government understands the importance of energy-saving and its further cascading effects on a variety of related industries. With the angling objective of making money (as Toshiba frankly reports), the main goal of this move, nonetheless, is to upheave development in the continent.
Innovation spaces grow almost monthly, and as that happens, a diversity of actors grows as well, whether they are busy pitching products to consumers or catering to digital entrepreneurs, designers, developers, and hackers. It was reported by WeeTracker in August that the Edo Innovation Hub, which was launched by the Edo State Government and Nigeria’s Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, in June, had successfully trained a total of 724 entrepreneurs.
Even banks are going with the flow, as Stanbic made a debut in the scene with the launch of Blue Lab innovation hub. According to a GSMA Tech Landscape report which was published in March this year, African tech hubs have grown in number by 40 percent in the last couple of years, with a total of 442 active centres keeping the ecosystem as lively as fireworks. At least 5 tech hubs have been launched in East Africa this year, including Tanzania’s Ndoto Hub and Seedspace, Rwanda’s Westerwelle Startup Haus, Uganda’s Tech Hub Incubator and others.
Singh, in his address, said that Toshiba used the year 2018 to test the waters and to fully and confidently rock the boat. The company is going to use the footprint of this knowledge to fully open a shop in Nigeria by 2020. Once the office is set up, the objective of the tech hub would be to train and mentor engineers to understand technologies. Since there will be country and regional sections, even the smalltime and roadside technology enthusiast would have the opportunity to learn this technology and earn their bread from there.
Toshiba’s intention, once the tech hub is established, is to have some direct employees in the market, sales, after-sales and the accounts of people. More fundamentally, the company wants to have at least 200 to 300 people connected to the office, as that is Toshiba’s core vision.
Feature image courtesy: Ibadan Tech Hub