Building a Resilient Innovative Africa in a COVID-19 world

The roleof innovationhubs in scaling start-ups beyondborders African governments, in close alignment with the private sector and other key stakeholders, must accelerate their response to minimize the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic and to secure continued growth across important sectors such as health, food security and education. According to a recent report 1 from AfriLabs and the research firm Briter Bridges, the continent now has an estimated 643 technology hubs, with half consisting of non-profit or donor-funded organizations. Additional research 2 from GSMA points to a 40% surge in the number of technology hubs inAfrica in just one year - from442 in 2018 to 618 in 2019. These ecosystems should be tapped into for harnessing homegrown solutions that even now can support governments to manage the impact of COVID-19. African innovation hubs, in addition to bringing cost-cutting, problem-solving, and locally relevant answers, house tremendous knowledge and capabilities. More importantly they offer a steady pipeline of potentially workable local innovations that the public and private sector can invest in, nurture and scale. Our study shows that the majority of entrepreneurs and start-ups (42%) see hubs as potential platforms to access funding, followed by networking opportunities, capacity building and R&D.

Provide increased access to more funding to conduct market research Increase networking opportunities beyond my home country Offer increased capacity building platforms e.g. market entry services, training courses etc.



Increase focus on R&D


Fig. Support needed fromHubs for innovators looking to expand


Insights from several regional hubs inAfrica point towards the need for stronger synergies between themselves and the public and private sectors to support the scaling of homegrown innovation. Insights also include the need to support hubs that cater for local innovations that can play a role in lessening the impact of COVID-19, to embracing open innovation, and prioritizing innovations that are intricately linked to national development agendas and community needs. What is highly evident is that COVID-19 has given rise to opportunities for some homegrown innovations to emerge. It is up to African governments and the private sector to be more strategic in tapping into this readily available innovation pipeline by working closely with hubs and making them a part of the continent’s long-term, socioeconomic development masterplan.

1 AfriLabs andBriter Bridges, building aConducive Setting for Innovators to Thrive, October 2019. 2 GSMA, ‘618active tech hubs: The backbone of Africa’s tech ecosystem, 10th July 2019.


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