Hubs, Incubators and Labs in Senegal

CTICAt Indigo, we support a number of different tech and innovation hubs across Africa – from South Africa to Nigeria, Uganda to Ghana. It was great, therefore, to meet so many different organisations during our time in Senegal that had either set up or were considering setting up a hub, lab or incubator.

Jokkolabs works to support ICT communities by targeting multiple creative sectors, not just techies and open source geeks. They feel that entrepreneurs need a space where they can be more open and ready to share ideas with others. Jokko started out as a cooperative, but when that didn’t work they turned it into an enterprise limited by guarantee (with 40% owned by the founders and 60% by the community). Jokko have held 150 events in two-and-a-half years, including 40 OSMap mapping parties. As well as events, Jokkosupport start-ups – both non-profit and for-profit – with a range of support services and assistance from financial and legal experts and the Chamber of Commerce. It’s an open space that anyone can join for an average fee of €100 per month, which includes space, electricity, access to events etc. There are currently about 20 such members paying to work out of the space. For details on some of these projects, see the other posts I’ve previously written about our Senegal trip.

Across town, CTIC are incubating 11 companies, running an accelerator programme with 16 start-ups and a pre-incubation programme with 24 start-ups, as well as hosting regularhubsocial events and offering virtual incubation services on issues like accounting, taxes and business development. The entrepreneurs they work with are involved in a broad range of sectors, primarily but not exclusively commercial.

HubSocial, meanwhile, was created in 2011 and has 10 engineers working to develop social solutions for Senegal and West Africa. They are most concerned with the MDGs around poverty reduction, health and education and hope to raise the profile of ICT in West Africa. Projects that they work on need to fulfil the following criteria:

  1. Be ICT based
  2. Have social objectives
  3. Be sustainable
  4. Target BOP users
  5. Coordinate with other hub projects.

They have an interesting model and platform which relies on projects that want to connect one group of people with another. The platform can be adapted to suit multiple needs and the team are working on a number of exciting projects.

jokko2A little different is Jjiguene Tech, a female-led organisation with a mission to encourage women and girls in ICT and to keep female ICT graduates and others actively involved in the ICT business. The Jjiguene Tech founders all have computer science backgrounds and would like to see more women in their chosen field. They gave us some great background information on ICT education in the country and on women’s role within the ICT industry. They hope to establish a women-only hub in the future.

Finally, Coders4Africa is a not-for-profit with a mission to create hubs and labs across Africa where technologists and others can receive advanced training and develop ICT tools that address community needs. At our meeting, we met some of the students from Coders4Africa’s first Senegalese training session which ran between October 2012 and February 2013 and saw students create apps that focused on health, agriculture, data collection and education.

The lab/incubator/hub scene in Dakar is incredibly varied and has clearly attracted a lot of talent. It was a privilege to take a look inside it and it will be great to watch how it evolves i future.