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.
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:
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.
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…
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.
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.
Karim Sy, founder of Jokkolabs, will be a speaker at the Coworking Africa 2015 in Cape Town.