Bolstering innovators in Africa


typically prioritise community building as their primary purpose. The findings in this study contrib- ute to literature and provide context by indicating that hubs that operate in the majority of Africa’s startup ecosystems are targeted towards enabling a thriving community of entrepreneurs, tech enthusi- asts and freelancers with only a few of them o ff ering services that are geared towards building and scaling companies. This study explores the di ff erent categories of innovation hubs by type of service provided, looking at their revenue models, their funding sources, as well as support o ff ered to their cohorts.

Innovation hubs play a vital role in supporting entre- preneurs and small businesses by providing safe spaces that enable them launch their ideas, scale their companies, and network with a community of like-minded individuals. As resources increase and hubs are able to capture available funding to deploy into the entrepreneurs they support, the realm of opportunities for these organisations across the continent expands significantly. Over the past half-decade, the annual mapping and study of hubs has taken a central role in determining the opportu- nity in the markets they operate in. ‘ Bolstering innovators in Africa ’ is an update to Briter’s and Afrilabs’ 2019 publication, ‘ Building a conducive setting for innovators to thrive ’, which highlighted the roles that innovation hubs play, as well as the business models they adopt in order to remain oper- ational. It shares insights into the value that they provide for startups, their challenges, and their models for achieving sustainability. This report was built by updating the existing state-of-the-art listing of hubs and sharing a survey that was filled by over 100 organisations, in order to collect fresh informa- tion on the innovation hub landscape. Since our publication in 2019, the number of identified hubs has grown by over 60%, from 643 in 2019 to 1031 in October 2021, despite factors like the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused disruptions to the business operations of many organisations, and monetisation problems that are peculiar to innova- tion hubs. As observed, COVID-19 had a significant- ly negative impact on several such organisations, especially those predominantly monetising through services related to physical facilities, with as many as 80% of respondents explaining having to shut down operations temporarily during lockdown measures. Among the services hubs provide, existing studies identify startup support and community building as the main categories. Of these two, tech hubs


At least 1031 innovation hubs were identified as operational across Africa as of October 2021, using a combination of primary and secondary data collection methods, in an e ff ort that has seen hundreds of hub managers involved, from Dakar to Cairo and Maputo. In this study, hubs are defined as support structures that o ff er services including incubation and acceleration programmes, co-work- ing spaces and support structures to enable entre- preneurs to thrive. For clarity and consistency purposes, although many hubs o ff er hybrid services and could fit into more than one category, this study focuses on the core services hubs o ff er and o ff ers insights into auxiliary o ff erings based on direct contributions from hubs. A survey targeted at hubs across Africa was used to collect new primary data and insights from hub managers, while Briter’s intelligence platform and desk research were applied to carry out the broader mapping exercise. For the sake of clarity, data collected through the survey will herea ! er be referred to as the Survey Sample and data from Briter’s database will be called the Tech Hub Database .


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