Another year, another chance to come back to life and work feeling refreshed. But just because we get the chance to shed our skin of 2015, doesn’t mean that we should forget all that we accomplished in 2015, like the first Coworking Africa conference in Cape Town, and the expansion of the Nairobi Garage in Kenya. As we are gearing up for the second Coworking Africa meetup, we would like to look back on some of 2015’s biggest moments, to get a feeling of the big things that will be accomplished this year.
Sure, frequent power outages and a lack of reliable internet connections might be inconvenient, but it certainly didn’t stand in the way of the African entrepreneurial community. With the help of coworking spaces, which serve as an affordable platform for reliable business practices, freelancers and entrepreneurs are now able to achieve professional autonomy, leading to job creation and economic growth.
Kenya’s, Silicon Savannah is a prime example of how innovative platforms and coworking spaces have garnered international attention and simultaneously shaped Africa’s tech incubator model, producing innovative concepts like mobile money and a global crowdsourcing app.
As a result, the Nairobi Garage was able to expand, opening a new space on December 1st, 2015. Looking to become “Africa’s largest coworking space”, manager Hannah Clifford explained that there was a greater demand for workspace in the region highlighting the rapidly growing entrepreneurial community.
In Egypt, a new coworking space joined the community, recently opening in Dahab. In fact, the project is not just a space, but also an inn, hence the name: Coworkinn, which caters to the growing population of digital nomads. With the rise of nomadic workers, this initiative offers professional travelers the chance to experience all the natural beauty the Sinai Peninsula has to offer, while also bringing economic and professional opportunities to the region.
On a global scale, Rise Cape Town, a Barclays Accelerator in collaboration with Techstars, is bringing an international fintech-focused accelerator to Africa. This 13-week intensive program is designed to take your startup to the next level. The program includes support from Barclays technology and “world-class mentorship”.
With the booming coworking communities of both Kenya and South Africa leading the way, the word has spread and there are now an estimated 200+ innovative spaces throughout the entire continent.
Later this year, She Leads Africa, a female-led entrepreneurship support organization will also be taking the lead by expanding their bootcamp program to 5 African countries. This initiative is custom built to support women entrepreneurs achieve their goals through coaching and various events.
And, of course, the annual Coworking Summit will return again this year. Calling all founders and managers of hacker, art and coworking spaces, the Summit is designed to cater to the needs of spaces and communities in the Mediterranean region. The event aims to better these spaces, helping them to become pillars of their community helping to support entrepreneurs, with the goal of creating new jobs, and breathing new life into their communities.
In February of this year, Coworking Africa will be hosting their second event in Cape Town. The meetup will be focused on continuing the conversation sparked at the premier African coworking conference, by exploring the growth of coworking in Africa.
The meetup aims to offer best practices, knowledge, and also give coworkers, managers and all interested individuals the chance to learn how to better collaborate across Africa. The event will also offer a co-creation workshop, that will be focused on helping space operators improve their business, by discussing performance, funding sponsorships and community management.
2015 was a big year for coworking in Africa, and this event hopes to make 2016 an even bigger one. Tickets for the upcoming Coworking Africa event in Cape Town can be purchased here.
Kresten Buch was in need of an efficient office space that catered to startups and also offered a professional working environment. Yet, there didn’t seem to be any available workspace in his area that could meet his specific needs, so he decided to start his own, and that’s how Garage coworking was born.
Today, Garage is a growing network, with 3 established spaces in Cape Town, Nairobi and Lagos. Each space has it’s own identity, which in turn has created an environment ideal for creating unique partnerships both locally and internationally.
Garage’s first space, founded in partnership with Google for Entrepreneurs, opened in Cape Town This made the Cape Town location the first tech hub meets coworking space out of the network. Eventually Kresten took over, and the first location became the official platform for the 88MPH accelerator program from 2012 to 2014.
Located in Woodstock, the first Garage is a major part of a neighborhood that is now considered to be one of the more creative districts of Cape Town. An established cornerstone of the South African coworking community, the Cape Town Garage primarily supports tech, mobile and web based startups as well as entrepreneurs. Although they do not necessarily require tenants to be married to a particular profession, they do specialize in those working within the tech sector, and thus can offer relevant support.
Riding on their success in Cape Town, Garage expanded in 2012 and opened their second space in Nairobi. With 800sq meters of space, including meeting rooms, and hangout spaces, Nairobi Garage also offers all the professional amenities needed for growing businesses. As the space in Nairobi is larger than its sister spaces, there is also more room for bigger teams and SMEs. Their most recent space opened in Lagos in 2014, which is co-owned by L5Lab.
All three spaces meet the needs of their varied communities, yet they are united by the fact that they cater to the freelance and startup community, which is making major steps in the tech, mobile and web industries. While each area is unique, all spaces have shared a common set of obstacles.
Aside from the fact that professionals struggle to find affordable space to work, many SMEs in South Africa suffer from frequent power outages and a lack of a consistent and strong internet connection.
Garage Space manager, Dante Roets, stressed in his presentation at last year’s Coworking Africa conference that “coworking spaces have become the most viable homes for tech businesses across Africa”, due to their ability to overcome these obstacles. Through a partnership with WorkOnline, Garage Cape Town was able to stabilize their internet at a high bandwidth for a low cost.
In Lagos, the space found themselves having to pay extra attention to promotion, as coworking is relatively unknown in Nigeria. Yet, the hard work has paid off and there is now a growing demand and the space aims to become the largest coworking platform for entrepreneurs in Africa. After installing a generator to reduce the harmful effects of power cuts, coworking is minimizing the loss of work and simultaneously empowering workers.
It’s safe to say that professionals all throughout Africa face unstable internet connections and power outages, thus it is essential to start building an international network of spaces. The more spaces can collaborate, the easier it will be to overcome obstacles currently faced by the community. In addition to offering regional support, networks also have a better chance at securing international partnerships through supporting one another.
After the successful premier Coworking Africa conference in Cape Town last July, we are ready to continue the conversation in the New Year, with the second Coworking Africa Meetup, held in Cape Town, South Africa on February 5th , 2016 at The Design Bank.
The second Coworking Africa meeting will offer best practices in the context of coworking, shared knowledge, and will also focus on nurturing personal relationships between the members of the coworking community in South Africa, highlighting the ways in which the established community is leading the coworking movement in Africa giving an overall introduction to the local scene.
The first part of the Coworking Africa Meetup will be in a conference format about how to strengthen the global and local coworking wave:
We will show the latest results of the Global Coworking Survey, which were presented at the most recent Coworking Europe conference in Milan, to how to create a thriving ecosystem for digital freelancers and startups.
The primary focus of the meetup will be to emphasize the importance of collaboration between coworking spaces as a means to further the creation of culture of exchange that works together to ensure collective success.
The second part of the meetup includes practical workshops co-created by the attendees and aimed at helping coworking operators achieve optimum results for their space and community. These topics are of the utmost importance, as coworking spaces today are often reliant on strong professional teams and motivated coworkers.
Interaction discussions facilitated by participants about:
You can also check the updated program here.
As the global coworking movement continues to grow, the African community is not far behind. Meet us on February 5th, for a unique opportunity to grow together! Book your tickets here, and let’s continue the conversation!
2015 saw multiple events around the world, from South Africa, to Italy at the Coworking Europe Conference, bring together thousands of individuals all unified by one thing: Coworking. The movement has gone beyond its early stages, and has become a global phenomenon, opening the door to a community of international coworkers who are now shaping the future of work. Proof that the coworking movement is growing exponentially was the introduction of the Coworking Africa conference, which took place last July in Cape Town, South Africa.
Currently, there are more than 250 active coworking spaces on the African continent and South Africa is leading the movement with 42 spaces and 23 tech hubs. However there is still a need for a more established community. Coworkers and space operators still face a variety of obstacles, ranging from lack of infrastructure to staggeringly high real estate prices and various other sociopolitical barriers. Yet, coworking advocate, Paul Keursten, doesn’t see these issues as a problem, but something to work with.
Paul Keursten launched Open workspace with colleague Mark Seftel in 2012. The network of collaborative spaces now has two locations in South Africa and aims to open 2 more, setting the standard for a growing community of self-employed and remote professionals in Africa. Each location has its own personality. The space in Johannesburg, Open Maboneng, is divided by various open spaces, including a 9-hole putting green. They are soon planning to open another space in the area, which will be a hybrid space in partnership with Wits University. This platform will focus on the “convergence of software, hardware and content on developing the tech startup culture in Johannesburg and on the African continent”.
The Open concept has also made other collaborations, such Workshop17, which is based in Cape Town and part of the Waterfront shopping center. The local hub “provides a landing platform and stepping stone for international players in academia and business”, but also brings additional value to the Waterfront ecosystem that includes avenues for retail, living, hospitality, entertainment, and dining. The area sees around 24 million visitors each year and creates the perfect opportunity for local talent to connect with the international community.
Open’s next project will be to open a space in Mamelodi, Pretoria, in partnership with Essent and Kessels & Smit. The space will provide a hub for coworking, entrepreneurship as well as resources for teaching and learning. Mamelodi will also host YES!, an initiative focused on supporting startups and entrepreneurs with the ultimate goal of job creation.
The Open network is just the beginning. Paul Keursten sees real potential in the emergence of coworking spaces in South Africa and recognizes that there is a major shift happening in the way that people work all around the world.
Keursten and his team address the challenges of the African community by focusing on educating potential coworkers about the value of flexibility, networking, sharing physical place and knowledge. Yet, like all established coworking networks know, changing people’s mindsets can take time and patience. In South Africa, the introduction of coworking plays a big role in facilitating relationships between individuals from different backgrounds, creating stronger professional networks as well as social ones.
Keurston highlights in his presentation from Coworking Africa, the ways in which hubs, accelerators and coworking spaces can become destinations where the local and international community can connect and collaborate. Creating space for individuals will also inspire the community on the whole, and bring added value to local neighborhoods.
The introduction of coworking spaces in Africa considers the revitalization of spaces, creating links, not just between local coworkers, but also existing ones throughout the region. Ultimately, this network will serve as a tool used to establish partnerships with other entities, like universities, knowledge institutes, accelerators, incubators and property owners.
As the concept of open spaces, networks and working relationships becomes more widespread throughout Africa, it will continue to serve as a tool used to implement new social concepts within the developing professional landscape.
Interview of Yaw Owusu, Managing Director Gateway Innovations Ltd – Accra, Ghana
I founded Gateway Innovations Ltd to plan, develop and manage Ghana Cyber City. I co-authored the book Modernizing Commonwealth Governments, which outlines the role of startup incubation and technology parks in transforming Africa’s IT economy. I have appeared on ENCA and SABC TV (South Africa), CCTV (China), Bloomberg TV (United Kingdom) and CNN iReport (USA) to discuss developing smart cities in Africa. I worked for General Electric and IBM (Washington) and Goldman Sachs in New York before relocating to Ghana to work full-time on the Ghana Cyber City venture.
Ghana Cyber City is a business innovation hub, comprising workspace and data center for innovative companies; new age condos for knowledge workers and executives; and a commercial center for technology retailers such as Huawei, Samsung, Apple. In collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Airtel Ghana and corporate partners, the project would incubate African startup firms. Located next to the University of Ghana at Legon, a high demand and strategic area of Accra, one of West Africa’s biggest commercial hubs, the Ghana Cyber City offers an innovative environment and a vibrant business and social community to its corporate, retail and residential tenants. Ghana Cyber City seeks to develop the infrastructure that will facilitate development of more African innovations such as mPesa (mobile banking), esoko (online marketplace for agricultural producers and buyers), mPedigree (protecting the integrity and safety of medications in African markets), etc.
Africa indeed has substantial infrastructure deficit for which the continent needs to invest more than $90 billion a year to address, according to the International Monetary Fund. The African Development Bank, in partnership with the African Union Commission, recently launched the Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) to facilitate investments in four areas, including Information technology and energy, critical to building Africa’s infrastructure.
Coworking and startup hubs serve as infrastructure (training center, incubator, accelerator), to support tech, entrepreneurship and innovation. Coworking can be a powerful platform to discover and nurture young entrepreneurs seeking affordable avenues to transform smart ideas into commercially-viable and profitable businesses and smart community development initiatives.
Corporate partners and universities can play a key role promoting innovation in Ghana and Africa. Case study: The Accra-based Gateway Innovations, the managing company of the Ghana Cyber City venture, has partnered with Airtel Ghana and MIT Global Startup Labs of Cambridge, Massachusetts to develop Airhub, to promote technology entrepreneurship and develop startup ventures in Ghana and Africa.
The Coworking Africa 2015 summit is a good avenue to start the process of linking promoters, managers and patrons of startup hubs, coworking spaces and technology parks together.
There would be more than 600 million Africans between the ages of 10 and 24 by 2050, up from 344 million today. By 2040, over 1.1 billion Africans will be of working age, surpassing India and China (Source: McKinsey). There’s going to be an explosive growth in coworking communities across Africa in the coming decades as the youth population increases, income levels continue to grow, more young Africans acquire higher education and become more tech-savvy and entrepreneurial-minded.
A smart or cyber city is characterized by the integration of technology into a strategic approach to sustainability, citizen well-being, and economic development. Africa is making strides in the following areas:
Just last week Africa had its very first Coworking Conference in Cape Town. Coworking operators and experts from around the world gathered in South Africa to bring know-how from the international coworking community and start an important conversation about the development of coworking in Africa.
In addition to a line-up of inspiring talks, from spaces like Mozambique’s Cowork Lab and Hub Dhaka from Bangladesh, we also came back with some facts and figures that can help the community understand the development of coworking in Africa.
Rapid Economic Growth
There are over 1 billion people in Africa, spread across 54 different countries, and around 70 percent of the population is under 25, which means there is a lot of potential for a rapid growth in industry. As the coworking movement is still carving out its role in the European business sector, it seems that Africa is not far behind.
As one of the world’s fastest growing economies, there are now over 100 million people active on social media and very much in tune with digital trends.
In 2013 Coworking in Africa was hardly known, with just 24 spaces on the map. Today is a different story, with over 100 spaces from Kenya to Cape Town, the global coworking community is becoming more dynamic with the inclusion of African coworking spaces.
South Africa Leading the Way
With 42 coworking spaces and 23 active tech hubs, South Africa is leading the way when it comes to the development of coworking. Currently, more than half of these spaces are based in Cape Town. Like coworking around the world, the majority of these started out small, but their the word is spreading, and big names like Google, Skype and StartupGrind are looking to lend the African community their support.
Addressing the Challenges
While knowledge about coworking steadily increases, the African coworking community is still very much aware of the various obstacles they must overcome, like the lack of quality infrastructure and the availability of a stable internet connection. According to a presentation given by Cape Town Garage, which also has locations in Nairobi and Lagos, many coworking spaces face the same challenge across the continent.
Some of the main issues are ensuring that prices are cost-effective for members, as well as the promotion of coworking.
While the alternative workspace has dramatically increased in popularity, it is still relatively unknown in countries like Nigeria. Thus education is still a priority. CTG explained how they attempt to address these issues faced by many spaces, they also mentioned that power-cuts are still a problem. But with the installation of a generator, the Garage group has found ways to prepare for this as not to compromise the member productivity.
The Future of Coworking in Africa
While there are always challenges, they certainly don’t cast a shadow on a bright future. Paul Keursten, co-founder of Open, an established shared workspace in Cape Town, highlighted in his presentation the richly diverse community in Africa that aims to overcome these obstacles.
Keursten highlighted how coworking spaces can become destinations for the African and international community, which will ultimately help bring local neighborhoods to life. With this idea, the African community is learning how to add value to their buildings, through revitalizing spaces, and enabling cross-pollination between educational institutions, property owners, accelerators and coworkers. A diverse community that is connected, will then be able to promote the concept of coworking on a broader scale, bringing benefits to each player through the value system of the sharing economy.
Other organizations, like TechStars see this growing interest in coworking spaces and accelerators as a ripe opportunity to introduce various wealth management systems, such as a comprehensive banking infrastructure, in a mostly cash-based economy.
For those of you who could not make it to the very first Coworking Africa conference, we have uploaded all the statistics and presentations, including interviews with coworking operators from all across Africa, like The District in Egypt and Bantuhub in Congo, Brazaville.
Tidiane Ball is the founder of DoniLab, a coworking space rooted in Bamako, Mali. Tidiane tells us about is experience, the impact of coworking and how coworking might rise in his country as well as in Africa, broadly speaking.
What is DoniLab ?
DoniLab is a coworking space based in Bamako, Mali. Its aim is to encourage entrepreneurship among young Malians.
What can you tell us about your story ? Your focus ?
In our African countries, young people have projects but have no environment conducive to develop. I was in the same situation. In 2009 I had the idea to create malisante.net which is a medical information site. Being student at the time I did not have the means or to take office or to have a fixed Internet connection. I was forced to go to the cyber cafe for updates to the website. In 2013 I decided to set up DoniLab to help all those who are in the same conditions. Our goal is to foster entrepreneurship among young Malians.
How would you describe the situation of coworking in Mali ? Where does the demand come from ? Is your community mainly made out of freelancers, startups, NGO?
Coworking is in a start in Mali. The demand mainly comes from young unemployed graduates. This is explained by the fact that these young people have realized that they need to create their own business and work in synergy. DoniLab is an NGO.
Is this audience big enough, according to you, to make those spaces financially sustainable on the long run?
We believe DoniLab will be financially independent on the long run. Because the craze that creates space among young is very large. Young people aren’t reluctant to contribute because they see this as an opportunity.
What are the biggest challenges you have to face ?
The challenges ahead are numerous: the involvement of authorities in support of coworking spaces, obtaining lower internet costs, which are very high, and Partnerships
According to you, offers coworking a solution to offer a better, more reliable, internet broadband connection for a bigger audience in Africa ? What about power outages ?
The big effort has to come from telecoms operators. For example, in Mali the maximum throughput for internet entrepreneurs is to 384 kb/s for USD 70 per month. Other offers are reserved for large companies because they are too expensive. Power outages are frequent so we’re about to go to a solar energy solution. This will allow us to save time and make money savings.
What can you tell us about the ambitions of Mali in terms of digital entrepreneurship friendliness ?
Digital entrepreneurship begins to take off in Mali. Many young people are interested. The government initiated the project ‘Mali Digital 2020’. This project aims to make Mali a technology hub by 2020.
Do you thinks coworking spaces community in Africa should/could collaborate more ? If yes, in which fields ?
The coworking space in Africa must work together to exist in the long term. These collaborations can be: a technology exchange, exchange of knowledge and experiences. In this context, for instance, we have a partnership with Ouagalab Burkina Faso.
What would you expect from a conference such as the Coworking Africa conference ?
Coworking Africa conference can be an opportunity to meet people doing the same thing as me, to exchange our experiences. But also to create a network and partnership
We are very happy to announce that Jess Williamson, director at TechStars, one of the biggest and most famous startup accelerators in the US, will be a speaker at the upcoming Coworking Africa 2015 conference (Cape Town, July 23-24).
Jess will tell us more about what, according to her, are the big market opportunities Techstars sees for Africa, want to support/invest in and how the development of a genuine Coworking scene in Africa is helping with that.
Jess is Director for the Barclays Accelerator powered by Techstars, working with startups across the financial services industry. Originally from California, she has spent nearly nine years in the UK with adventures including startups in Scotland, Springboard accelerator in Cambridge, and Techstars London. She is interested in better engaging
We are happy to present Nexudus Spaces, platinum sponsor of the Coworking Africa Conference 2015.
We interviewed Carlos Almansa and Adrian Palacios, Nexudus founders. Learn more about them here :
The coworking movement is growing all over the world and is healthy. In recent years, we have seen the model evolve and mature. The movement in Africa also seems to be gaining strength. There are additional infrastructure-related hurdles when opening a coworking space on the African continent (Wi-Fi, electricity supply, etc.) as well as those associated with accessing real estate, etc. Events such as Coworking Africa Conference are very positive for networking and sharing experiences with people from the world of coworking. Although there is still a long way to go and obstacles to overcome, we believe that the coworking movement in Africa will pick up speed in the coming years.
Nexudus Spaces is a white-label software that helps coworking spaces automate many of their daily tasks and processes, such as accounting, booking management, access control or lead and member management. It also has a range of features to help create synergies between members and lets them manage their accounts in the space and professional profiles online.
Spaces is a platform created by Nexudus, a company with vast experience developing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. Our first contact with the coworking movement was thanks to some friends who opened the first coworking space in southern Spain some years ago, workINcompany. We related to the coworking philosophy from the very beginning and started identifying spaces’ day-to-day needs. With Nexudus Spaces, we wanted to respond to these needs and help the communication and cohesion of the communities forged in the spaces. We have worked with hundreds of spaces that use the platform over the years and their feedback and recommendations are always important for us to keep improving the software and make it grow. From our experience, we can safely say that each coworking space is different. We believe this diversity is what enriches the coworking ecosystem and represents a challenge for us to ensure that the platform responds to very different scenarios.
Since Nexudus started, we have worked globally and we currently work in more than 30 countries. Working internationally has meant that we have learnt how differently spaces implement, organise and manage their spaces. The spaces that we work with vary in size from very small to large networks of spaces and franchises. The communities that you can come across are also very diverse, from spaces whose coworkers have very different professional profiles to those that are specifically for makers, females, chefs, etc. Nexudus Spaces isn’t just a management software, we also like to share our experience, which can be of great use to new spaces.
Nexudus Spaces is a flexible tool with very complete features that can be extended via apps. Furthermore, it’s the only white-label coworking software that lets spaces completely personalise their image and the messages they send to their coworkers. It includes a content manager, blog and website for the space and its members, all of which are modular and can be customised. Also, from the start we envisaged a tool that spaces could scale up or manage different sites from their Spaces account. And lastly, one of the aspects that Spaces users most value is the support that we offer.
We are happy to welcome I/O Spaces as a sponsor of the Coworking Africa 2015 conference !
A creative coworking and makerspace for entrepreneurs, bloggers, you-tubers, nerds, designers, developers, geeks, scholars, techies, crafters, and start-ups in Maryland (US).