Coworking Trends

« There is a strong support for coworking spaces currently growing in South Africa », Alon Lichtenstein, Hangar49

« There is a strong support for coworking spaces currently growing in South Africa », Alon Lichtenstein, Hangar49

Alon Lichtenstein is a Cape Town based entrepreneur who sees looking forward the key to success.

Experienced with building and packaging startups around the world, Alon is also the founder of HANGAR49 , a platform that aims to solve human problems using technology-based solutions, which he eventually takes to market.

We caught up with Alon to discuss the impact that technology and coworking space are having on the South Africa ecosystem, and what can be done to strengthen these new models of work.

Hi Alon, can you please tell us a bit more about HANGAR49?

The initial intention is a platform where corporates investigate R&D, or innovation using 3rd party aspiring founders in the market. Essentially corporates can login to pitch their problem anonymously. They would then then develop an ecosystem and would be presented with solutions.

So, that was my original plan for HANGAR49, but after coming back from traveling in the EU, UK and also the States, I was inspired by the opportunity of being more dynamic and actually creating these solutions, which were difficult to implement in South Africa.

Why was it difficult for you to bring a more dynamic business plan into the South African ecosystem?

The South African landscape is still relatively conservative from a business perspective, and the market there is in its nature, slightly smaller. While there are many aspirant individuals and projects, these applications don’t receive so much government support like they would in other major urban environments. In general the more commercial landscape makes it difficult to build up disruptive and innovative business at the moment.

What could businesses in South Africa do to open up more opportunities?

Today South Africa is purporting to be smart and intelligent, which it is, but we are experiencing a bit of a brain drain, and still not enough capital distribution and a lack of resources.

Also, because of conservative tendencies in the business world, corporates are not taking advantage of technology and lean approaches to business or even being as tenacious as they could and need to be. I think that there’s a lot of rhetoric around this so we need to make a move to open up these platforms on a state level and a corporate one.

Do you think the emergence of coworking spaces will play a role in changing the current rigid business ecosystem?

I think that there’s an interesting characteristic found within the regions freelancers, which is probably a result of the history, which is that they are progressive individuals who are not finding opportunity in innovative commercial settings, as they would like. As a result these potential change makers are still led towards to more traditional titles, and at the same time, the labor legislation is pretty sophisticated and there is a high level of protection for employees, which can also keep things stagnant.

So would that be a reason why people might be apprehensive towards coworking?

Well, it’s a pretty new infrastructure, which is also incredibly progressive, but there’s also a lack of security in this type of environment. Yet the more traditional model can create stagnation in regards to expansion or contraction on need to need basis. Thus there is a strong support for coworking spaces currently growing, especially in South Africa.

Is coworking doing well in South Africa?

South Africa is a first world economy and it is probably older and more sophisticated compared to others in Africa. Companies over the past ten years have seen the ways in which doing business today has become expensive and therefore view coworking spaces in an opportunity. As we are primarily focused on the service industry tech agencies, creative agencies are operating more from within coworking spaces, which is a far more flexible and enjoyable environment.

As an entrepreneur, why are coworking spaces so attractive to scaling up business and ensuring professional success? And would you yourself use the coworking space model?

What I would love to do is have a coworking space as a location, have corporates, who are part of a mid-tier business plan, who is probably in need of some technology in their back pocket. They probably wouldn’t have the cash flow to sit back and watch the business come in, so they would be more innovative and willing to hustle.

The coworking space platform would be perfect for this, as it is an ideal place to bring in fast moving, smart dynamic young people who understands technology and to help leverage these client’s businesses. To succeed today on a global level, you’ve got to embrace really smart tenacious thinkers, who will not get bogged down bound down by procedure, and bureaucratic rules and solutions to problems and obstacles in the business world will be able to emerge more naturally.

Coworking in Africa: Facts and Figures

Coworking in Africa: Facts and Figures

As 2016 is already warming up, and the next major Coworking meetups are already are on the horizon, we look back to how far we have come so far in 2016. Presented at the last Coworking African meetup 2016, in Cape Town, Vanessa Sans of Social Workplaces gave a keynote exploring the coworking boom in Africa, titled: “Coworking in Africa-Facts and Figures”.

Vanessa discussed the steady growth of coworking worldwide, highlighting that the average coworking space has approximately 46% more members than it did two years ago. Today, there are about half a million people in total working out of coworking spaces. What’s even more positive, is that this increase in memberships and spaces has not led people to feel that they are in a more isolated work environment.

In Vanessa’s presentation, “Coworking in Africa-Facts and Figures”, she goes back to 2013, when the coworking scene in Africa was barely visible on the global coworking map. According to The Global Coworking Census, there were only 24 spaces at the time. Fast forward 2 years and there are now over 250 active spaces, comprised of both hubs and coworking spaces. All of this information shows us that the African movement is on the same track that Europe and the USA were 5 years ago, showing promise that coworking in Africa is not going anywhere.

Today, Egypt is leading the way with around 76 spaces, but we can guess that there may be more. Egypt is then followed by South Africa with 67 coworking spaces, in which more than half of these spaces can be found in Cape Town. In 3rd position is Morocco with 17, followed by Nigeria with 13 and Kenya with 12. 


“Coworking in Africa-Facts and Figures”, not only outlines the numbers which prove growth and development but also explores the ways that coworking spaces have played a key role in Africa’s socio-economic development:

Still today there are several critical issues that Africa is working on overcoming, such as the lack of quality infrastructure and strong internet connectivity. Since 75% of the population is under the age of 30 there is now an entire whole generation of talent currently looking to get their career off the ground, thus these issues have become a priority for innovators and entrepreneurs in Africa. With a more connected and innovative economy growing rapidly in Africa, coworking has proven to be an essential tool for young entrepreneurs, allowing them access to valuable resources, skills, knowledge, and job opportunities.

In fact, thanks to mobile technologies, Africa is one of the most connected populations in the world, and coworking has provided the space and value system upon which local entrepreneurial communities can develop. Today, with more and more spaces popping up, the African coworking ecosystem is now prepared to connect to these other communities to strengthen, which also creates potential for global collaboration as well. Coworking in Africa Facts and Figures

Overall Vanessa’s presentation outlines the steps the coworking movement in Africa has taken to get to where it is today, with a growing number of collaborative spaces that can now offer the proper conditions and infrastructure needed for professional growth in Africa. Today, the African coworking community sees open and collaborative spaces as the bedrock of various local ecosystems comprised of entrepreneurs who are shaping the future of modern, digital-friendly tech-savvy economies.

Opportunities and benefits of connecting coworking spaces

Opportunities and benefits of connecting coworking spaces

Paul Keursten, founder of the OPEN coworking network based in South Africa recently explored the various benefits that come from connecting coworking spaces. His presentation, “Opportunities and benefits of connecting spaces across the continent”, given at the last Coworking Africa 2016 meetup, looks at the role of entrepreneurship, connectivity, and also the implementation of virtual platforms aimed to help better serve their members.

The goal of connecting coworking communities is to “contribute to meaningful solutions and development” by constructing a platform that will be a living network that is both supportive and sustainable, much like a coral reef. This connection is sparked from a need to find solutions found within the current workplace culture. Today’s workplace is becoming increasingly defined by innovation, which is transforming not only the way that we work but also how we understand property models. In regards to physical space, connecting coworking spaces doesn’t only have social benefits, but also many environmental ones. A smarter use of space can save on energy, resources and breathe new life into neighborhoods.

When you nurture innovation and take action, this enables individuals to create natural productive communities. As Paul noted in his presentation, an important part of this connection is breeding innovation by creating diverse environments, or “connecting worlds” that include everyone from entrepreneurs to policy makers, who will inspire one another. Paul’s presentation also strengthens the point that coworking communities where trust, sharing knowledge exchange are easily accessible, are drivers of change. Through creating space for change, there is more room for innovation and job creation.

Another important aspect of connected coworking communities is that they go beyond individual success. A connected professional ecosystem strives to be apolitical, as competition is taken out of the equation. This dynamic allows for there to be a level playing field for all types of professionals. An active and equal community can work together to find build solutions to problems as a team, such as exploring economic, social, cultural, geographical, and professional growth.

The final point of the presentation looked at the way in which connected coworking communities can also manifest themselves into virtual platforms. At OPEN, their virtual community allows members to have access to practical needs at affordable prices, such as room bookings, while also accessing a strong social network.

“Collaboration and exploring the importance of coworking spaces working together »- Silicon Cape Presentation

“Collaboration and exploring the importance of coworking spaces working together »- Silicon Cape Presentation

As coworking rapidly matures, space operators are no longer worrying as much about next month’s rent or how to attract more members; they are now putting their focus on the bigger picture, such as potential partnerships and corporate collaborations.

At the recent Coworking Africa meetup in Cape Town, Lauren Wallett of Silicon Cape, a well-established community of techentrepreneurs, developers, creatives, angel investors, and VC’s was one of the keynote speakers. She gave a presentation that looked at the bigger picture.

Titled and how we can further these relationships”, the presentation highlighted some of the ways that coworking spaces can best work together, such as exchange programs, sharing resources and hosting co-events.

One of the main points was engagement and the importance cultivating a rich social network, both online and in your coworking space. Some of the ways that this can be achieved is to have an active blog/social media presence, which will act as a digital platform from which your members and potential members can stay connected, updated and informed.

Communication is also a key element of fostering success in the physical workplace and building trust through sharing and growing, collaboration can come as the next natural step. Regular meetups and community events that aim to share important resources help deepen personal and professional relationships.

In order to create strong partnerships, Silicon Cape gave an overview of the types of programs that can be implemented, such as meetups, blog accelerator programs, or even being the part of a bigger network like the Coworking Visa Map or the SA directory for coworking spaces, which was launched by Silicon Cape.

Creating a thriving ecosystem of digital entrepreneurs: Presentation

Creating a thriving ecosystem of digital entrepreneurs: Presentation

On February 5th the second Coworking Africa meetup took place at the Design Bank in Cape Town, bringing with it inspiring presentations from influencers and innovators from the South African community. In order to continue to develop we are sharing with you, our beloved community, the keynote presentations from the event.

Ian Merrington from one of South Africa’s oldest innovation hubs, The Barn, shared with Coworking Africa some important insights regarding growth and sustainability within the tech and innovation sector. His presentation “How Important is Coworking to the Creation of a Thriving Ecosystem of digital Entrepreneurs” begged the question: What can we do as a community to make these growing sectors self-sufficient and long lasting.

The presentation highlighted the most important steps innovators and coworkers need to take to create such a community, like functional infrastructure that also includes strong internet connectivity. Once this is established it is essential to nurture the environment, making room for personal connections productivity and open collaboration. Another important focus is to have a mix of tenants, establishing key partnerships, as the Barn has done with big players like Barclays, Bitcoin Academy,  and Telekom.

Already 15 years old, The Barn covers the basics, and today they strive towards developing a globally competitive tech and innovation sector, that will ultimately enable sustainable economic growth, in addition to an increase in job opportunities.  

As the coworking movement has greatly advanced, there are more options than ever before that we can use to develop a strong ecosystem. With the right mix of tenants, support and specialized hubs Ian shows up the elements he predicts will creative a thriving collaborative ecosystem in 2016!


Interview of the first Coworking and Tech Incubator in South Sudan

Coworking Africa media partner and friend Smart Monkey TV interviewed Emmanuel Mbisimo, community manager of  jHub.

JHub is the first Technology Hub in Juba, South Sudan.

The project born in 2015.

« jHUB will be home for the youth to give them access to a Coworking space, electricity, high-speed Internet as well as mentorship and business development skills« , according to TechMoran.

In the video interview, Emmanuel explains how it was launched out of a Peace Hack Camp; the events its has organised; its Open Solar event; the kind of start-ups it’s fostering; and the importance of peace for more start-ups to develop.dd.

As other TechHubs in Africa, jHub aims to contribute to build up a community taking part in the re-construction of South Sudan.

Here it is :

A look back at the second Coworking Africa 2016 Meetup


On February 5th, the  second Coworking Africa Meetup was hosted at The Design Bank space in Cape Town. Around 30 from South Africa gathered at the meetup to discuss best practices regarding how to strengthen the global and local coworking movement in Africa.

In 2013, coworking in Africa was barely visible on the global coworking map, with only 24 spaces according to The Global Coworking Sensus. Today, it’s a different story. So far, the number of spaces have more than tripled in the last 2 years, with over 300 spaces (hubs and coworking) currently in operation. We can safely say that the African movement is on the same track that Europe and the USA were 5 years ago and that coworking is here to stay. Thus the next logical step via the Coworking Africa network is to support the growth of  African coworking communities by fostering knowledge, sharing and collaboration.

The 2016 event aimed to explore ways in which we can nurture South African relationships in order to connect spaces between local communities of freelancers, entrepreneurs and innovators, in addition to focusing on what we can do to stimulate collaborations, exchanges, social and business opportunities for members in South Africa. We put focus in this region, as it is currently leading the coworking movement throughout the African continent, with around 53 established spaces out of total number of 340 coworking spaces according to Global Enterprise research.

Coworking Africa meetup 2016: Continuing the conversation

Steven Harris from The Design Bank opened up the meetup by welcoming the coworking community and telling the Design Bank story. He led attendees through the space philosophy, explaining why they were more than just a coworking and maker space, by showing their various innovative recycling initiatives.

The first keynote was presented by David van Berkel, owner of the first and only coworking space in Pretoria, Grounded at Echo. David introduced the South African coworking scene, continuing to give a complete overview while highlighting the challenges that the country has faced due to the lack of coworking awareness, wrapping things up  by discussing the specific barriers needed to be broken to get entrepreneurship participation through collaboration.

Lauren Wallett from Sillicon Cape, a tech community based in Cape Town, also gave some examples about how coworking spaces can work together and presented a new project: Coworking South Africa, the first coworking directory in the region.

Ian Merrington from The Barn, one of the oldest tech hubs in Africa based in Cape Town, explained in his presentation “How important is coworking to the creation of a thriving ecosystem of digital entrepreneurs” that developing a globally competitive tech and innovation sector can enable sustainable economic growth while also providing greater employment.

Major coworking players also joined the conversation

Vanessa Sans of Coworking Europe, the biggest regarding the coworking movement, presented the most recent data of coworking in Africa, and also demonstrated the way that coworking conferences have enabled thousands of coworking communities around the world to be in touch with one another. She also discussed the importance of conversation and a network of trust between coworking communities that can benefit to all the players, as it has been demonstrated in Europe and in North America over the last 6 years.

Last but not the least, Paul Kersten from Open, a coworking brand with 3 established spaces  in South Africa and with a new one coming soon, explained how through Open they are providing opportunities and benefits to their community by connecting worlds and creating ecosystems between different players such as entrepreneurs, corporations and professionals. He explained that building and connecting communities where trust, sharing and ideas can flourish, and where people are equal in a playing field that is accessible to all participants.

Today, we are fully aware that the way we work has changed and workplaces need meet these changes. As these transformations take place all over the world it is only natural that Africa should join the movement. Coworking spaces are the engine of local economies, and from that perspective Africa is no different from any other continent. This social boom within cities ultimately creates a healthy, dynamic and growing economic environment. As already experienced in Europe, the USA and now in Asia, we strongly believe and we always say that « the more coworking communities we have, the better off the country will be! »

Keep updated as all presentations will be published in the coming weeks.


South African entrepreneurs map out coworking space for refugees

South African entrepreneurs map out coworking space for refugees

Coworking is often considered to be a conduit to address various needs faced by communities, whether that be the lack of affordable infrastructure, community and support. For today’s freelancers, entrepreneurs and creative thinkers, coworking spaces have been a godsend, helping individuals to avoid isolation and find success in their professional lives. Yet, aside from the professional benefits, the coworking concept has been also been considered by some to be a valuable tool in addressing social issues.

Entrepreneurs, Vasili Sofiadellis and Paul Keursten, have realized the potential of utilizing coworking a social tool, and have recently announced their plans to open a coworking space that will cater to the needs of the countless individuals suffering from the current refugee crisis.

In October of 2015, they travelled together to Lesvos in Greece, an area of Europe that has witnessed one of the greatest concentration of refugees, the majority of them fleeing from Syria. We spoke with Vasili about their experience in Lesvos and how they plan to move forward with this inspiring space.  

Hi, Vasili. Can you please tell us a bit about your (and Paul’s) experience with coworking and what led you ultimately travel to Lesvos?

I am a South African Greek National, based in Cape Town, and I have been visiting the birthplace of my parents, Lesvos, every year for the past 10 years. I have my own company, from which I plan to launch a socially oriented health tech accelerator.

Previously, I was running a PriceWaterhouseCoopers office within a local tech incubator and coworking space. In addition to my own projects, I am also a board member of the Silicon Cape Initiative, which is a not for profit entity focusing on supporting tech entrepreneurs. I am also a founding crew member of the StartupBoat, an initiative to find tech solutions for the refugee crisis. In 2015, We traveled to Greece twice with