African Tech Hubs and Funds Hope to Bridge the Digital Divide

iHub

In its recent report on global trends in Internet connectivity, the World Economic Forum found countries in Africa are still lagging many of their peers in other areas of the developing world.

“Sub-Saharan Africa slowly continues to develop its information and communication technology infrastructure,” the report noted. “Severe weaknesses persist in the region’s business and innovation ecosystems,” the report warned, adding that addressing those weaknesses would be crucial to ensuring the benefits of digital innovation reach the broader population.

Undeterred by the sluggish development of Internet access across the region, technology hubs are sprouting across sub-Saharan Africa, attracting sizable investments and growing attention. Communities such as Kenya’s iHub, ActiveSpaces in Cameroon, RLabs in South Africa and CTIC in Senegal are aiming to provide the kind of environment that will enable home-grown technology start-ups to thrive.

Technology-focused investment vehicles are emerging, too. Savannah Fund, a roughly $10 million fund focused on incubating technology firms in Africa, has recently invested in three new companies as part of its accelerator program, Erik Hersman, a partner in the fund, told WSJ Frontiers. The companies will receive $25,000 each and will have three months to prove themselves. BiGxGh.com, a music website in Ghana; UniSmart, a student loyalty platform in Nigeria; and Zevan Limited, a startup in Kenya, will all receive mentoring and coaching through their process.

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