Coworking in Africa

Interview : Karim SY founder of Jokkolabs

Karim Sy

How and why did you start Jokkolabs ?

Being involved in the World Summit on Information Society since 2000, we believe that there is a paradigm shift that is happening in the society and economy; a new economy is emerging that gives windows of opportunity for Africa. But nonetheless, humanity is facing unique economic, social and environmental challenges. We know that we need to change behaviours and innovate to find new ways of living in a more sustainable and more shared prosperity.

We believe that entrepreneurs are those who have the creative mind to imagine that future and make it happen. We need a new kind of entrepreneurs: more collaborative and involved in the community. That’s why we have built a home for them: Jokkolabs, inspired by the open source/hacker movement.

In 2010, I decided to dedicate my time and resources to launch Jokkolabs as a social change hub. The first hub was launched on 10/10/10 !

Our vision is to pioneer a new model of business, entrepreneurs based, supported by the emergent digital economy.

What is Jokkolabs today ?

Nowadays, Jokkolabs is a network of 8 hubs in 8 countries*. Thanks to our hub leads, who are entrepreneurs aiming to engage with the community around them. Jokkolabs is now close to what we envisioned in the beginning : to be a collaborative ecosystem around creative hubs, where like-minded people drive entrepreneurial innovation and social change for a shared prosperity.

For example, more than just having a coworking, we help to structure communities aligned with our vision of openness and sharing, open source and tech communities (Mozilla, Google, Mobile Monday, etc.) as well as green economy friendly. In France, it’s an opensource software company Maarch, who supports the hub in the Paris suburb of Nanterre – La Defense.  Depending on the level of maturity we also run pioneer project involving a community and technology driven approach such as:

  • Samabaat (a platform for the election being one of the first in Africa to be used in a civil society situation room to monitor the electoral process for the 2012 Senegalese presidential election),
  • Sig Santé Senegal (Health – see a health map based on the open source software QGis. We have built from scratch a community of practice. The objective was to assist national eradication programmes in the establishment and use of a geographic information system (GIS) to improve, explore or manage health data. The same project has been done in Mali with another approach.
  • In partnership with NGO’s and the IFPRI (Research), we are exploring new approaches to innovate in agricultural markets along with small farmers. The objective is to tackle social problems (such as nutrition) and to improve the welfare of the poor people, through non financial incentives and efficient contract farming arrangements.

Those projects are not usually happening in a lot of coworking spaces. In addition, we also have regular programmes, such as the Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Have you a focus and, if yes, can you elaborate ?

We have a strong digital culture, as it’s the basement of the new economy. But we are open to all industries. Nowadays, our creative hubs are rather designed for creative talents working in mobility. However, we are thinking of a model for rural areas, around agriculture topics.

What is specific to run a coworking space in Africa and what are your main challenges ?

The private sector and the culture of entrepreneurship is very new in Africa. A challenging environment and a small economy make the business very difficult for our members. They can’t usually afford the real cost of the hub. Therefore, we have to be very innovative to find a sustainable business models. Nonetheless, we get no support at all from the government.

When we opened in France, we received a grant. It was so new to us that we haven’t been able to spend more than 50% of the amount…

What kind of connections, collaboration would you look for, ideally ?

There is a new starting wave, with more mature networks and initiatives. We need to find a way to go beyond our “egosystem” to really create a sustainable ecosystem within the continent and, even, on a more international level. We are open to collaboration with all those whose share the same vision of openness and collaboration. Those who wants to build a better world for a shared prosperity.

We believe in a very open partnership and in the principles of creating value together for the society.

Where do you see coworking in Africa over 5 years time ?

In 2010 we were just 3 on the continent, out of 700 worldwide. Today we count at least more than 50 spaces like ours, I think. New spaces open everywhere, every month. That’s a good news, something is happening, that’s for sure. Over 5 years time, I see more and more spaces covering the continent, as well as more mature spaces, with a higher commercial and societal impact.  As the level of intra-Africa trade is lower than 25%, I believe that all those spaces will connect the entrepreneurs of the continent with the world, serving as a catalyst for a sustainable and inclusive economic growth of Africa.

* France, Senegal, Mali, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivoiry Coast, Gambia, and Marocco.

Interview : Alex Hillman co-founder of Indy Hall in Philadelphia

Alex Hillman

Can you remind us of what Indy Hall is?

Indy Hall is a coworking community in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA that we started in 2006. That makes us one of the longest-running spaces in the world.

If we’re “famous” for anything, it’s our relentless focus on community. At the heart of Indy Hall, you’ll find great people having authentic and meaningful experiences. We are living – and working – the good life.

We believe in sharing the good life & actively working towards it together.

How and why did you started?

I started Indy Hall because I was lonely. I didn’t so much need a place to work as I needed people to work around.

I’d quit my job as a web developer to freelance, and found that freedom and flexibility of being independent was awesome but DAMN it was lonely.

It seemed easier to find like-minded people anywhere except in my own city. So I spent nearly a year looking for those people. As I found them – I realized that many of us had the same problem in that it was difficult to find other people who had the same interests and passions we did.

By the time we were actually considering opening a coworking space, it was less like opening an office and more like building a village. The community we’d already built was invested in having a place to gather and work and meet and learn and explore.

I didn’t start Indy Hall for the community, I started it with the community.


How do you figure out the building up of coworking communities in Africa?

One of the worst things I could do is show up in Africa and say “Here’s how we built our coworking space in Philadelphia. Do it our way!”

Coworking is an incredibly local experience. Indy Hall’s experience is the way that it is because we started in Philadelphia. The city’s local culture and DNA is baked in. I think that’s what makes us, us.

When I see new coworking spaces simply copying what they see in other coworking spaces from different places, I know they’re setting themselves up for failure. This happens very often in the US, and I’m seeing it more and more around the world as people try to copy the “visible” elements without understanding why they’re there in the first place.

I’m most excited for two things about coworking in Africa: the first is to discover the differences in our cultures that will make coworking in Africa unique. But the second is to discover the similarities, the basic human elements that we all share.

I’m coming to share, but I’m also coming to learn.

What kind of practical collaborations would be possible between communities in the US and in Africa, do you think?

My personal philosophy on collaborations is also at the heart of Indy Hall’s success: true collaborations start on the foundation of a trusting relationship, not a transaction. Said more simply, we need to get to know each other before we work together.

So right now, I think we need to focus on truly getting to know each other. And then…the kinds of international collaborations that people crave will become not only more possible, but natural and effortless.

Is there something specific you expect from the Coworking Africa conference?

Over the last year, more of the people who join my list Coworking Weekly have introduced themselves from somewhere in Africa. It has been amazing, and exciting, to meet them and learn what’s happening in their cities, towns, and villages.

Villages. I want to know what coworking in villages is like!

This is a pioneering conference for a region. Not just a region, but an entire continent. That’s incredible, and I’m honored to be able to be a part of it.

Every time I’ve been to an event like this, I’ve gotten to see people who never would’ve otherwise found each other meet for the first time. That experience is truly magical, to find your tribe. It’s the same kind of thing that a great coworking experience can provide…except compressed into a couple of days full of gathering and working and meeting and learning and exploring.

5 reasons to attend Coworking Africa conference

Logo CWA small

Be a pioneer in the most promising continent of the coming century

Coworking Africa conference is the first attempt bringing together more than 20 countries from Africa and beyond: Senegal, South Africa, Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Maroc, Gambia, Benin, Mozambique, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Congo, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Philadelphia (US), Spain (EU), The Netherlands (EU), Austria (EU) and Belgium (EU).

A unique opportunity to share and learn best practices, knowledge, success and failures experiences about coworking. You are also welcome to bring your story too.

Be one of the first people to take part of the coworking movement in Africa, the continent with the youngest population and with the highest potential in the world.

Building up the coworking community

The pioneers from the African coworking scene will meet up in Cape Town next July 23-24.

Start to collaborate. Joining forces with other coworking spaces will make you stronger towards other players such as local institutions, sponsors and potential customers elsewhere in Africa or in the world. Build together a conversation and a network of trust between other coworking communities, it benefits everybody.


Who’s coming to Coworking Africa conference ? Coworking space managers, incubators managers, startup accelerators managers, business centers managers, real estate pundits, innovation ecosystem specialists, economic development public agencies, entrepreneurship associations, universities, business schools and journalists.

The conference is a unique occasion to connect with the best experts from the coworking world. Meet them and start interesting relationships, and, why not, build up and collaborate on new exciting projects.

Coworking is about people!

Cape Town coworking scene

Cape Town is one of the cities leading the coworking movement in Africa with about 20 coworking spaces. Once you’ll be in Cape Town don’t miss hotspots such as Workshop17, Daddy.O, Garage, Twenty-Fifty, Cape Town Office, the Design Bank or The Barn… to mention a few.

Evenings full of music, drinks, networking and fun

Coworking Africa conference is more than a conference. We love coworking as much as having fun.

Great article about Coworking Africa 2015 in New Worker Magazine i

Today, the US based New Worker Magazine posted a great article on our upcoming Coworking Africa conference in Cape Town.  

Until now Africa has been considered a small player in the coworking movement. Now, major demographic shifts and a handful of booming tech scenes are creating ideal conditions for the rise of coworking in Africa. A growing number of people across Africa are looking for flexible workspace, from entrepreneurs and independent tech professionals, to teachers and development workers.

Over 100 coworking spaces, tech hubs, business incubators and startup accelerators have opened in Africa in the last two years. Universities, businesses and development agencies are starting to make use of these new spaces.

With the growth of the flexible workspace industry comes Africa’s first conference devoted to the topic. The Coworking Africa conference will be held in Cape Town, South Africa on July 23-24 at Cape Town Office,Cape Town Garage, OPEN and The Design Bank. Cape Town is regarded as the capital of coworking in Africa with more than 25 spaces, many of which will be participating.

You can read the whole piece here

Iceaddis : interview of the first innovation hub & coworking space in Ethiopia

Iceaddis is the first innovation hub & coworking space in Ethiopia established in May 2011. The coworking space recently moved to a new modern building in the heart of Addis Ababa.

Florian Manderscheid (Ice Addis)

Iceaddis is partly an open community workspace, part vector for investors and part pre-incubator for young energetic tech- entrepreneurs.

We asked Florian Manderscheid, the development manager, to tell us more about Iceaddis.

What is Ice Addis ?

Iceaddis is an innovation hub and coworking space. We support startups teams and host events for tech community and social focus.

What can you tell us about your story ? Your focus ?

Iceaddis was established as the first innovation hub in Ethiopia, it serves as a place to go for young creative professionals with a background of an growing economy and changing structures in the society. iceaddis is offering a place for exchange, work and the support for innovative project ideas, that are related to local demands and developments. Mainly young university graduates and startup founders are using the iceaddis facilities and connect to the developer and technology community.

Looking back on several startups that have came out of iceaddis and a community with around 5000 members, we have currently changed our organization in to a private company that enables us to reach out to even more young talented techies and entrepreneurs. We believe that iceaddis has become more attractive to collaborate with private sector and international institutions.


How would you describe the situation of coworking in Ethiopia  ? Where does the demand come from ? Is your community mainly made out of freelancers, startups, NGO’s ?

As coworking is now in the beginning in Ethiopia, we see a huge potential for more places, such as iceaddis. So far, there are very few other public coworking spaces and the concept of coworking is very new to most of the professionals and corporates. Most of our community members have a tech related background but also international freelancer are part of the mix.

Is this audience big enough, according to you, to make those spaces financially sustainable on the long run ?

That is something, we are eager to figure out within 2015, since we just started giving service.

What are the biggest challenges you have to face ?

Apart from the financial sector that makes it complicated for startup investment, it is the bureaucracy which makes it necessary, to have a business license for each activity that we want to perform i.e. consultancy, coworking, events, product development. But we are very optimistic that the government will change the regulations and include startup incubation in the business licensing.

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 ?

Internet is available for many people by service providers, such as internet cafés and hotels. But coworking offers a lot more than internet, which is the exchange amongst young entrepreneurs and techies – that enables them to focus on even more complex challenges.

What can you tell us about the ambitions of Ethiopia in terms of digital entrepreneurship friendliness ?

So far, we see a change in digital entrepreneurship and a growing number of startups involved in the sector. Currently the potential is limited due to an inefficient financial sector, but we are waiting for mobile payment systems to be launched by end of this year. On the other side Ethio Telecom has a lot of homework to improve the stability of internet connection.

Do you thinks coworking spaces community in Africa should/could collaborate more ? If yes, in which fields ?

Probably coworking spaces can be a link for peer learning and knowledge sharing.


Happy to welcome Phezulu Group among the sponsors of the Coworking Africa 2015 conference

We are very happy to welcome Phezulu Group as a sponsor of the Coworking Africa 2015 conference !


Coworking Africa conference: Get a discount on the regular price !

Only one week left to get your Coworking Africa conference Early Bird ticket. The opportunity will be over after April 15th.

Get the Early Bird discount here.

More than 5.500 coworking spaces operate worldwide. Now, the coworking wave has hit Africa. From flex office providers, open incubators or tech hubs providing with a coworking offering are blossoming across the continent. For the first time, the African coworking community is invited to gather in Cape Town, on July 23th and 24th 2015.

We’ll enjoy two days of collective learning, inspiring content & serendipity.

Day 01: Inspiring keynotes and panel discussions

Insightful keynotes and panel discussions on the latest trends and inspiring stories from the Coworking community from Africa and beyond.

Networking cocktail at The Design Bank coworking space.

Day 02: Unconference, a shared experience

A whole day of barcamp which attendees choose and facilitate participatory workshops to celebrate collaboration and to share best practices. We will make sure there will be even more collaboration, interactions and meaningful encounters this year.

Cape Town Coworking Tour

At the end of the Barcamp/Unconference, on the second day, groups will leave for a guided tour of the Cape Town Coworking scene, across the city. The tour will end at the cocktail/party venue.

Closing party at Cape Town Garage coworking space.

Be a part of the first Coworking Africa Conference !




Book now


Available only until April 15th

Get a discount on the regular price !

Cities, services and internet are fueling the growth of Africa (some figures)

What to watch for Africa 2015 (Africa CEO Forum)

La 1ère conférence africaine sur le Coworking se tient au Cap les 23-24 juillet 2015

La conférence Coworking Africa, le 1er événement organisé en Afrique sur la thématique du coworking, se tiendra au Cap, en Afrique du Sud, les 23 et 24 juillet 2015. Coworking-Africa-Conference-2015-970X180

Le coworking est un concept d’espace de travail mutualisé qui monte en puissance partout dans le monde. Plutôt que de payer un loyer, comme dans un bureau classique, les utilisateurs paient un abonnement correspondant à la durée d’utilisation de l’espace.

Le modèle est particulièrement adapté pour les travailleurs indépendants, les entrepreneurs et les startups qui peuvent ainsi partager les coûts d’accès à une infrastructure de qualité, dans laquelle ils ont accès une connexion internet partagée.

Grâce à la mise en commun de l’infrastructure, les espaces de coworking deviennent le lieu de fixation de communautés dynamiques d’entrepreneurs et de travailleurs qualifiés. Désormais, beaucoup hébergent des programmes d’accélération de startups et structurent les écosystèmes créatifs dans les villes ou régions où ils se trouvent.

L’Afrique prête pour un essor rapide du coworking 20150129_125923

Plus de 5.800 espaces de coworking sont aujourd’hui recensés dans le monde. Le nombre double chaque année.

Si l’Europe et les Etats-Unis sont à ce jour leaders, le coworking connaît aujourd’hui un essor rapide en Afrique également. Cette évolution est alimentée, entre autres, par le développement récent de communautés d’entrepreneurs digitaux dans de nombreux pays africains, par l’amélioration progressive de l’accès à internet haut débit ou encore par la croissance démographique qui fait de l’Afrique la population la plus jeune du globe. Partout, les espaces de coworking deviennent les lieux privilégiés d’où démarrent la plupart des nouveaux projets de startups. L’Afrique ne fait pas exception.

La conférence Coworking Africa 2015 entend réunir plus d’une centaine de participants d’Afrique et d’ailleurs.

 La première conférence africaine sur le Coworking, vise à créer des liens et des échanges entre opérateurs d’espaces. Coworking Africa 2015 s’adresse aux gestionnaires d’espaces de coworking, aux porteurs de projets d’espace de coworking, mais aussi aux représentants d’organisations publiques, aux gestionnaires d’incubateurs d’innovation, de programmes de mentorat, d’accélération de startups, aux organisation non gouvernementales, aux fondations, ou encore aux entreprises liées ou pas aux mondes digitaux…

Les organisateurs de cette première conférence africaine sur le coworking ont l’espoir que l’initiative tissera des premiers liens durables entre les opérateurs d’espaces de coworking africains et qu’elle fera connaître l’impact positif que le développement de l’offre coworking peut avoir en l’Afrique. La conférence a aussi pour objectif de faire apparaître la communauté coworking d’Afrique sur la carte du coworking au niveau mondial

Plus de détails sur le programme et les orateurs :

Organisation :

Coworking Africa 2015 est le fruit d’un partenariat entre Global Enterprise et Cape Town Office.

Global Enterprise est l’initiateur de la conférence Coworking Europe conference. La dernière édition, tenue à Lisbonne, avait réunii plus de 320 participants issus de 40 pays différents. Coworking Europe collabore étroitement avec GCUC, organisateur de la conférence américaine sur le coworking, et associés aux événements similaires en Australie et au Canada.

Cape Town Office, fondé par Lizelle van Rhyn, est l’un des pionniers du coworking en Afrique du Sud. L’espace est située au Cap.

Lieu et dates:

23 et 24 juillet 2015

East Studio (62 Roeland Street. Le Cap, Afrique du Sud)

Inscription :

Accreditation média :

Suivez-nous sur les réseaux sociaux:

Twitter : @CoworkingAfrica

Contact :

Jean-Yves Huwart                   Vanessa Sans                                                      Lizelle Van Rhyn (au Cap)            


[1] Deskmag Global Coworking Survey 2014

Interview of Jon Stever, founder of The Office, Kigali (Rwanda)

Jon Stever is the Founder of The Office, a community workspace and hub of hubs that hosts and connects the grassroots innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem in Kigali, RwandaJon Stever

What is The Office ? How and why did you started it ?

The Office is a hub of hubs.  We are a community workspace, a community venue and a physical community-focused entrepreneurial ecosystem.  Our work is aimed at supporting the entire creative and entrepreneurial ecosystem across the city.
We started in October 2012 with a small space. Since then our community has taken over our entire building and we have partnered with a new technology incubator, think, to open a second open workspace in another building across town. We have hosted some major cultural and intellectual events in the city over the last two years, from TEDx to film festivals to 3D printing workshops to social enterprise happy hours to art exhibitions. In the next few months we will launch Kigali’s first technology park. We are also an Impact Hub candidate and will be applying for Impact Hub membership in April to connect our community of social entrepreneurs with the amazing global Impact Hub community.

Is there place for coworking spaces in Africa, aside the many tech hubs ?

There is absolutely an important place for traditional coworking spaces in Africa alongside the tech hubs, and they are not necessarily different. Afrilabs, the network of innovation hubs in Africa, for example, counts several coworking spaces among its members, such as The Office and District.
Tech hubs are incredibly important spaces for techies and entrepreneurs to learn skills and explore opportunities, but in order for the engineers to build and grow viable businesses they need to be connected with creatives, marketers, financiers, accountants and so on. In this way, coworking environments are a perfect compliment to the tech hubs that are popping up across the continent.
Source :

The Office, Kigali

What is for you the biggest challenge coworking spaces face in Africa ? What about the customer base of freelances, startups, NGO, etc ? Is this audience big enough, according to you, to make those spaces financially sustainable on the long run?

The market for coworking is clearly more challenging in Africa than in other regions. Many of our recurrent costs, such as internet and commercial space, are significantly more expensive as a share of local income than in other regions while the number of freelancers and startups is proportionally much smaller. But, the model is definitely viable, as The Office is demonstrating.
One of the biggest challenges we face is the degree of non-market competition in this sector across the continent. Organizations and governments are now interested in being seen to « support innovation », but they often end up creating distortions in the market. When selected spaces are provided with recurrent cost subsidies it becomes much more difficult for other spaces to operate on a purely commercial and sustainable basis.

What can you tell us about the ambition of Rwanda to become a digital friendly country for entrepreneurs ? What is the role coworking can play ?

Rwanda’s ICT strategy is ambitious and absolutely achievable. ICT is one of the priorities of the national development plan, and the progress has been incredibly fast thanks to the active work of the Ministry of Youth and ICT.  Olleh Rwanda Network, for example, a joint venture between Korea Telecom and the Rwandan Government, is rolling out 4G across the country.  Download speeds in Kigali can now rival any capital city in the world. 
There has also been a major and broad-based push to build tech skills in the country and to create a supportive environment for startups. Carnegie Mellon University has opened their world class university in Rwanda. The Government, JICA and the Rwanda ICT Chamber run a well-known tech hub, kLab. Tigo has launched a technology incubator in Kigali, think, that is investing in and supporting tech companies that have the potential to scale across the continent. And, there are a number of really exciting young companies–such as HeHe Labs that work out of The Office–that are building platforms and tech solutions that are poised to disrupt traditional sectors. There are also numerous programs supporting general higher education for Rwandan students–such asBridge2Rwanda and Kepler–and there are many world class facilities being built for students here, such as the high school science lab at Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village
Coworking plays a vital role in the development of the tech ecosystem. Research shows that collaboration between existing organizations and entrepreneurs is actually more important than any of the individual components of an ecosystem. Coworking spaces faciliate this collaboration by connecting tech entrepreneurs with eachother, connecting tech entrepreneurs with support organizations and finance, and connecting tech entrepreneurs with the freelancers and service providers that can help them scale. 
At The Office, for example, there is an ecosystem of support. At our HQ, Educat, an enterprise and leadership training organization, is providing hands-on support to over 100 entrepreneurs. Ejo Partners, an investor matchmaking and consultancy company, is supporting entrepreneurs to access capital. Our second location at think has created a linkage with that technology incubator as well their management, African Entrepreneur Collective, which also runs another excellent local business development organization, Inkomoko. We also host one of the most successful and innovative social enterprises in the region, One Acre Fund.

Coworking spaces in Africa can secure power and high enough bandwith for workers and bring an answer to the infrastructure issue. Do you agree with that assumption ? (yes, no, why)

Yes. Coworking spaces can generate economies of scale to solve these problems, because our communities can leverage our joint bargaining power to make investments that wouldn’t be possible if we were working in isolation. 
Moroever, coworking spaces bring together the first-adopters and the influencers across our cities, and this creates a really interesting co-branding opportunity for telecoms and other service providers.  If a telecom is interested in reaching SMEs and the creative and entrepreneurial community, then they should find a coworking space to kit out with fast internet to market their products! Similarly, development organizations that want to support innovation and private sector development should be looking to find existing community-focused coworking spaces to support.

Where do you see coworking in Rwanda in five years time ?

I really want to see more people realizing the benefits of collaboration and I want to accelerate the rate at which people come into contact with new people, new ideas, new approaches and new ways of doing things, because that is where innovation comes from. That is how people realize their full potential. That is how we will build more empathetic and collaborative societies. That is how we will deconstruct the pervasive social inequalities that divide are species based on gender, ethnicity, religion and wealth. 
Coworking spaces and hubs ironically have perverse incentives to operate as silos.  In other words, the spaces and hubs that ostensibly focus on collaboration, often do so only amongst their own communities and networks. Spaces and communities often do not collaborate with eachother across cities because they face perceived competition for members, PR, funding, and identity.  
In Kigali we have a different vision, a vision inspired by local culture that can be compared with ubuntuism. Several spaces and organizations are coming together to build a new movement. We are launching a coalition amongst the entrepreneurship centres and creative spaces and organizations in Kigali to work on fostering greater collaboration between our communities.  Because, we believe that if we work together across the city, that we can accelerate development. In five years, I envision a number of spaces across the city that form a cohesive and collaborative ecosystem that is churning out world-changing people and innovations. 
I believe our model is replicable, and we are working on a manifesto to spread this approach to other cities around the world.