In January this year I was lucky enough to visit Ethiopia for the first time. During my time in Addis Ababa I was able to pay a visit to xHub and IceAddis, both hubs which are being supported by the Fund for Technology Innovation in sub-Saharan Africa this year.
These were my first visits to Tech Innovation Hubs and it really brought to life the great work that hubs are doing.
My first visit was to xHub. Located in the Morning Star Mall on the busy Cameroon Street, xHub is well placed to attract techies and entrepreneurs. The hub is housed within the offices of the Centre for African Leadership, and CALS is also its main funder. We met with Jared, the new Director of CALS who showed us the space, including the great outdoor space where members can meet, chat, relax and innovate. xHub has recently undergone a period of transition owing to a significant change in staff. The first year hasn’t been without its challenges. They are in the process of recruiting a new hub manager which means some programmes have been halted. In addition, a temporary lack of internet supply meant the hub wasn’t busy when I visited. However, it was great to meet Jared, learn about the hub’s activities and see the space. We look forward to speaking with the new hub Manager when he or she is in post.
IceAddis moved location late last year and the community members are clearly settling in well to their new space. The hub was buzzing with the sound of conversation and typing and the stunning view from the office is clearly a distraction, hence the need for a sign reminding members to “look at your laptop!” written on one of the windows. There were groups of people co-working on projects and individuals deeply focused on their personal projects. The meeting rooms were lively, full of people sharing ideas and developing projects. I met with Markos, the co-founder, who gave me a tour of all the spaces which are available and introduced me to several people working on projects which ranged from programmes to monitor supply-and-demand in retail to medical appointment tracking systems.
My visits to both hubs were quite brief but I began to get a real sense for the hive of activity which they can become. The open-plan nature of both spaces was clearly important, as it can help to encourage knowledge-sharing, interaction and innovation.
Thanks to Jared and Markos for welcoming me during my brief time in Addis Ababa.