In 2008 a couple of tech guys sitting around a table after Barcamp Nairobi first discussed the idea that eventually would become the iHub. In January 2010 there was another group, this time of people trying to setup their own labs, hubs and coworking environments in other countries across the continent.
It was there that the idea for Afrilabs was born: an association of these facilities across the continent. The association is for linking the spaces for learning, growth, and to provide greater mass for the entrepreneurs that we work with.
The labs serve as an accessible platform for bringing together technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in the area. Each lab shares a focus on young entrepreneurs, Web and mobile-phone programmers and designers.
Spaces and Models
There aren’t many spaces like this across Africa, and there were even fewer a year ago, though we hope that more will quickly be added from many other countries. Already we’re hearing about new spaces popping up in Nigeria and the Ivory Coast, with planned ones in Tanzania and Ghana.
We’re all experimenting with our models. Some are pure coworking, some incubators, others provide freelancers a chance to act as a collective agency, while some serve as a community commons where tech serendipity happens. My take is that we’ll end up having as many models as the unique city cultures that spawn them, mixed in with the ethos of the founders. And there’s room for many more, even in the same city.
The Afrilabs Association serves a few purposes:
- Provide an association that is easily accessible by lab and hub managers, where they can learn from their peers, understand the different models and connect easily.
- Provide a bigger target (continent vs country) for attracting outside investors for the entrepreneurs in the labs. Possibly with an Afrilabs fund, accessible only through the filter of an entrepreneur’s local lab.
- AfriLabs seeks to build on this common vision and further promote the growth and development of the African technology sector.
I’m excited to see the dawn of this new open and accessible model of coworking, incubation and community spaces for Africa’s tech industry. Not only will the labs receive greater visibility, but businesses and investors now have a channel to more easily source talent and investments within Africa’s tech community.
If you run a tech lab or hub in Africa, or are putting together one, make sure you contact Afrilabs.