GSMA, an association that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, has today [20/03/2018] released it's annual Tech Landscape report for 2018. According to the report, there are now 442 active tech hubs in Africa. This represents a 41% jump from last year's estimate of 314 tech hubs.
South Africa maintained the lead with 59 hubs up from 54 indicated in last year's report. However, Nigeria is fast closing the gap. The number of tech hubs in Nigeria jumped from 23 to 55 by close of 2016 and 2017 respectively. To sum up the top 5, Egypt, Kenya and Morocco each clocked 33, 30 and 25 tech hubs respectively.
According to GSMA, a tech hub is a "physical spaces designed to foster and support tech start-ups”. They adopted this definition in 2016 when they first carried out research on this topic. The definition covers incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, fab labs, maker spaces, hackerspaces, and other innovation centres.
GSMA has published its report of the state of hubs in Africa. The continent currently has 442 hubs. With South Africa and Nigeria leading at 59 and 55 per country. pic.twitter.com/ijwWkNPH9U
— Digest Africa (@DigestAfrica) March 20, 2018
Growth has been registered across almost all countries on the continent where the study was carried out.
"In Africa, countries like Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, for instance, have experienced a significant growth in the number of active tech hubs over the past year," wrote Maxime Bayen from GSMA. Adding that "since 2016, the Ghanaian ecosystem – home to hubs such as MEST and iSpace – has grown by 50% (from 16 to 24)."
"Similarly, Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire has gradually positioned itself as the new catalyst of innovation across Francophone Africa and has seen its number of active tech hubs double. Zimbabwe (13) and Uganda (20) led the way in ‘tier 2’ ecosystems in Southern and East Africa respectively."
Also important to note is that Lagos has now taken over as the leading ecosystem city in Africa with 31 active tech hubs.
"Lagos has now taken over as the African city with the highest number of tech hubs (31) and potentially the leading innovation hub on the continent, especially after MEST, Google and Facebook announced the opening of local tech hubs between 2017 and 2018," says Maxime.
However, some cities are also evolving at a fast rate. For example, Accra has now broken into the top five ecosystem cities in Africa with over 16 tech hubs.
"Over the past two years, secondary ecosystem cities have also caught some light, denoting the growth of the national tech scenes outside of the main economic hub," Maxime wrote. Adding that, "Cities like Johannesburg, Kumasi, and Alexandria in Africa, and Hanoi, Penang, Ahmedabad, Bandung in Asia Pacific, are now established ecosystem cities in their respective markets."
Although the African tech startup scene has attracted interest from investors and multinational corporations like Google, Microsoft, Alibaba and Facebook, telecoms are still at the centre of supporting the tech hubs.
"The last couple of years have also been characterised by the rise of tech giants’ interest in the untapped opportunities of African markets," write Maxime. Yet, according to the report, "about 12% of the active [tech] hubs [in Africa] are now either run or backed by a local mobile operator."
MTN, Vodacom, and Orange appear as the most active operators in Africa when it comes to running or engaging with local tech hubs. Though, Econet's Liquid Telecom is likely to become a top contender given the partnerships it is setting up.