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Africa’s incubation ecosystem; why networking and creative thinking are the recipes for success

Africa is in the midst of a transition, from the fringes of innovation to the global economy, and the country is on a fast track. Technology is playing an ever-increasing role in bolstering investment, business and an IT ecosystem. In the midst of this transition is our member NETFUND Kenya, who is a UBI Global Top Challenger Program. This article explores the innovation ecosystem in Africa and discovers NETFUND’s recipe for success.

Silicon Savannah

A play on words, to be sure, but Kenya’s tech hub is home to more than 200 startup companies and valued at $1 billion thanks to firms such as Intel, Microsoft and IBM. Kenya has creativity and potential and they are innovating technology solutions to real-world problems like never before.

Since the government opened the doors in 2009, initiating TEAMS, a fiber-optic cable that enabled Kenyans to have cheap, reliable broadband at speeds that rival the US, dozens of tech companies have been born.

All this growth is supporting a new generation of young startups with huge potential. Incubators, however, are just one of many cogs in the wheel. It is very important that incubators provide a network to share and transfer knowledge between mentors, universities, entrepreneurs and investors. NETFUND’s Joshua Anampiu said it well,

“..it’s a platform for incubators and the private sector as well as the public sector to cooperate and put more resources into supporting startups and innovations…”

The Incubator as Network

The incubator itself has to be the network, in other words, the communication platform that allows for collaboration between startups and even other incubators. A community of incubation, as it were, which would collectively test services, tools and products that solve a problem, meet a need or create a desire.

Adopting best practices and standards seems to be the starting point, according to NETFUND’s Andrew Machora, who responded to the question of how they would leverage being named a UBI Global Top Challenger Program:

“..it’s telling the world that we are adhering to a certain standard and we have a new benchmark… we are people of high standards, we have integrity in what we do.”

Who is NETFUND?

NETFUND was established by the African government to facilitate research to benefit environmental management. Through empowering Kenyans themselves, NETFUND aims to protect the environment. Part of this initiative is to incubate green companies, providing them with support services to bring their companies to market. By networking with the technology incubation players, NETFUND is able to provide more and better technical services to their startups.

Additionally, by supporting technology incubation programs with their green initiative, NETFUND is making sure that innovation in any sector stays green. Their NETFUND GIA is a perfect example of this, as it identifies, recognizes and rewards innovation in environmental management. Any sector can enter the contest and be awarded seed funding. From new energy sources to transforming waste to building micro-climates, the innovators in NETFUND GIA demonstrated a huge wealth of creativity and problem solving for the environment, and all of them need technology to make it happen.

The future of Africa’s innovation ecosystem

According to Joshua Anampiu and Andrew Machora of NETFUND, the ecosystem in Africa is going to experience even more opportunities in the next five years. They explained,

“we may see a convergence in terms of small incubates (startups), joining together to form big corporations and more big innovators… which will lead to economies of scale and reduce the cost of doing business for the incubators themselves. ”

While the momentum of growth may lead to startup failure in Africa at a high rate, it will also lead to monumental successes. It is only a matter of time before Africa’s startups start making waves in the global economy.

What we can learn from NETFUND

While not on a scale of some other innovation ecosystems, NETFUND Kenya is doing many things right. They have a solid overall program score as well as an impressive Value for Incubation Program. At a glance, this essentially means that they are poised for growth of the program as well as the ecosystem, attracting more support and creating successful companies.

In their own words, NETFUND Kenya says it best:

“…there is a lot of patience that is required, a lot of innovative and creative thinking, in tackling the businesses that we have. I think that is the recipe for success.”

To find out more about working with startups and innovation ecosystems in Africa, get in touch with us at UBI Global. We continue to devote ourselves to creating successful relationships in our network, working toward a healthy, global innovation ecosystem. To learn more about how important it is to benchmark your program, get in touch with us at UBI Global. Our Pro Members enjoy fantastic benefits such as reports, benchmarking, networking and valuable knowledge and advice from peers, and you can join us right away to start reaping the benefits. Our World Benchmark Report and Best Practices reports are just waiting for you to discover new efficiencies and standards that help your program stand out from the rest.

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