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FDISTRATEGY AFRICAN TECHECOSYSTEMS OF THE FUTURE 2021/22


AFRICA’S TECH SECTOR, THOUGH GROWING, IS HINDERED BY ACCESS TO TALENT AND CAPITAL. AIDEEN DUFFY REPORTS


FDI Strategy I


n 2012, two students at Cairo University began working on an app providing services to mobile


developers. Instabug, as it is known, has now raised more than $7m in capital, with an estimated 2 billion users. Despite success at Y Combinator, a US start-up accelera- tor, Instabug has remained in Cairo. Equipped with an enviable combi-


nation of supportive regulation and access to capital, Instabugis justoneof many successful Cairo start-ups, with the city taking the top spot for foreign direct investment (FDI) strategy in fDi’s African TechEcosystemsranking. A total of eight submissions were received from countries across the continent, with entries judged by a joint panelfromBriter BridgesandfDi Intelligence. Judges looked for loca- tionsthatwere activelysculpting their tech ecosystems with supportive regu- lation, funding and infrastructure. In thewake of the 2011 revolution


in Egypt, the changing leadership and government paved the way for a thriving tech start-up scene in Cairo. When Flat6Labs launched in Cairo in 2011, the chief executive Ramez Mohamed suggested to Reuters that “the revolution has affected the scene. People learned that they could set their hopes higher”. The changing regulatory field in


Cairo has spurred foreign investors, with growing interest from the Middle Eastern market. Many inves- tors from the region view Cairo as a lucrative gateway to the continent’s untapped tech potential. Cairo has received growing recognition for its techecosystem,andStartupGenome’s 2020Global Startup EcosystemReport ranked Cairo among the top 100 emerging ecosystems. The city has reported interest from foreign start- ups wanting to establish in Cairo, with founders listing the city’s com- petitive talent and cost effectiveness as a key attractionfactor.


Hubsandincubators All locations surveyed by the judges were universally keen to highlight the importance of hubs and incubators in building a successful tech ecosystem. Cape Town in particular has an impressive number of accelerators andincubators,andboaststhe highest


36


number ofco-workingspaces in Africa. Cape Town was awarded second


place for FDI strategy after displaying impressive initiative in creating the necessary infrastructure for a thriv- ing tech ecosystem. The city prides itself on its tech start-up scene and credits its vibrant coffee culture with helping the start-up ecosystem evolve. In addition to its start-up incubators, the city also had a nation- ally funded ‘Innovation District’ which aims to build a strong technol- ogy innovation community. Tesi Rusagara, managing director


of Kigali Innovation City, suggested that hubs and incubators are instru- mental in bridging cultural and knowledge divides between young start-up founders and more tradi- tional banks and government agen- cies. Rolana Rashwan, marketing manager of Egypt’s Information Technology Industry Development Agency, also noted instances of start- ups helping each other and offering service exchanges in Cairo’s hubs and incubators. It is clear that the sense of community, access to oppor- tunity and availability of training make start-up hubs indispensable across the continent.


Accessing the talent pool Access to talent, a critical factor in any tech ecosystem, varies widely from location to location. Whereas Cairo reported companies from Germany flying out to the city to recruit developers for remote work, Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, noted that with only one university there was a struggle to find enough talent. Recognising the urgent necessity of a tech-educated workforce, Kigali, the capital ofRwanda, hasmovedquickly to upskill the labour pool. Kigali’s efforts towards improving


the city’s tech talent has earned it third place for FDI strategy. Kigaliaims to be the talent hub for Africa, and is attracting foreign workers through improved visa access and a high qual- ity of living within the city. This strat- egy is paying off, with Andela, a Nigerian softwaredevelopmentorgan- isation, setting up a hub in Kigali to train software engineers. Indeed, Tesi Rusagara, managing director of the tech cluster Kigali Innovation City,


April/May 2021


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