The Facts and Fictions About Africa Innovation and Technology Hubs.

Early 2013, Helping a Team at Buni Innovation Hub. Three People In This Picture Have Very Interesting Stories to Tell.
  1. Programs and Activities; our hubs lacks programs with measurable outcomes. We love short-term activities. Very few hubs have well-structured programs for supporting entrepreneurs. We are not even tracking their progress or documenting their learning. Most hubs do one-off pitching events, meetups, partners events, hackathons etc without investing much on designing and implementing longer (meaningful) programs that can actually help to prepare an entrepreneur beyond just pitching. All successful business incubators and accelerators, Y-Comb, TechStars, 500 Startups and the likes, globally have comprehensive programs to support entrepreneurs. They don’t just do one-off event and jump on everything else that comes on their side.
  2. Skills and Experience; our hubs lack people with enough skills and experience to help businesses to grow. It’s normal to find one or two with the required skills and experience. The rest of the management supporting team are amateurs without enough experience to offer technical or business support to the startups. No wonder most of our startups are not investor ready. The teams that are supposed to get them to that stage don’t have the highly needed experience and skills to do that. The next time you open a hub make sure you have a strong support team or empower your existing team. There is a lot of material and resources online for that.
  3. Mentoring and Technical Support; while you will hear most startups complaining about gaps in finance and lack of investment funds, most of the time you will find out that is just 10 percent of the problem. The bigger problem is the lack of mentoring and professional advice. African hubs need to partner with mentors networks or even create one if they don’t exist. They are free guidelines online on how to build mentors and investors networks. Encourage your teams to read and get exposed. This is crucial if we want to have beyond average startups. Startups founders need to be advised by people with enough experience to run and manage businesses.
  4. Business Model and Sustainability Plan; while new hubs are starting the old ones are dying. Very few documents the reason for their death and those who are starting new ones don’t care much about learning from others mistakes. It is important to figure out this puzzle. How do we get our hubs to run as a business and have a sustained impact? Most hubs still relying on membership fees, grants, project management etc very few make money from their core mission of supporting startups. I don’t have a magic formula for this but its worth seating down with your team and reflecting on this.
  5. Meaningful Partnerships; the number reason for the failure of most hubs in Africa is to try to do everything. They want to be the university, the government, the consulting firm and finally the business incubator (accelerator). You can do it all. Find partners that will add value to your core mission. It is good to evolve and explore new things but you can’t be changing every day. What do you want to do? Where do you see yourself in a few years? What kind of partners do you need to reach there?



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Jumanne Rajabu Mtambalike

Jumanne Rajabu Mtambalike


Entrepreneur, TZ Patriot, Loves Tech, Founder, Project Management Consulting firm, Co-Founded and Sahara Accelerator.