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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 :
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Coworking Africa conference is more than a conference. We love coworking as much as having fun.
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.
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.
More information about coworking in Brazil, visit www.coworkingbrasil.org.