Category: Articles

It takes an ecosystem: How networks can boost Africa’s incubators

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 Bond’Innov
Dynamic entrepreneurs supported by the North-South incubator Bond’Innov. Photo Credit: Bond’Innov


Across francophone Africa, incubators are emerging rapidly to support a new generation of young entrepreneurs. Despite their huge potential, however, incubators are just one of many players in a typical entrepreneurial ecosystem.  So it is increasingly important that incubators — in addition to allocating the necessary resources, services and funding to worthy start-ups — provide them with a platform to share and transfer knowledge across the ecosystem, not only with each other but also with the investors, research centers and industry experts upon which their businesses will ultimately depend.

As with Impact Hub Bamako, incubators can be part of broader international franchises, while others are anchored by academic, public or private bodies (or some hybrid of the three) and may already be associated with other incubators. Bond’innov, for example, is an incubator that promotes entrepreneurship cooperation between the global North and the South and that is headquartered in Paris and located on-campus with the Institute for Development Research, a large multidisciplinary research organization operating in more than 50 developing countries.

mLabs do more than simply create tech start-ups

Over the last few years, there has been a lot of excitement around the potential impact of digital technologies to solve challenges and create jobs in the developing world. Those championing this strategy for growth and development have turned to young entrepreneurs with wildly imaginative ideas that just might work — if only they had a little business training.
 
Since 2011, infoDev has been piloting entrepreneurship support programs across the globe and has helped establish a network of mLabs to support digital entrepreneurs. A 2014 assessment report, Do mLabs make a difference? found that these specialized incubators had helped develop nearly a hundred start-ups and created over 280 jobs. Our team returned to the mLabs to conduct a follow-up assessment and uncovered some interesting findings about their impact.
 

Participants networking at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in South Africa. © Mutoni Karasanyi/ World Bank

Participants networking at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress. © Mutoni Karasanyi / World Bank