Co-working Spaces Catch On In Africa’s Growing Tech Community

By Kevin Mwanza Published: January 7, 2016, 8:12 am
Nairobi's iHub. Photo: Erik (HASH) Hersman/flickr/MGAfrica

According to Disrupt Africa there are an estimated 200 coworking spaces across Africa, but there are as many different models as there are spaces.

While some are run as for-profit businesses with users paying a daily, weekly or monthly fees, others are run as incubation hubs where member apply. They are quickly becoming a hyped and “sexy” topic, known as places where ideas meet people.

Some of the most popular co-working spaces in Africa include iHub and Nairobi Garage in Kenya, KiandaHub in Angola, RLabs in South Africa and The Office in Rwanda.

Before starting KiandaHub in Maputo Mauro Yange, Dizando Norton and Joel Epalanga used to meet in restaurants.

“Our meetings were held at restaurants and some events and other activities in very humble venues, where we could not even breathe or think properly, but the willingness to make things happen was bigger than anything else,” Epalanga told Global Information Network.

Tech communities across Africa have been on the rise and with them coworking spaces and hubs have cropped up as a herd of new tech startups and small businesses are birthed across the continent.

Currently, there are more than 250 active co-working spaces in Africa and South Africa is leading the movement with 42 spaces and 23 tech hubs.

Coworkers and space operators still face a variety of obstacles ranging from lack of infrastructure to staggeringly high real estate prices and various other sociopolitical barriers.

In the rich world,co-working spaces are heralded as trendy, open spaces conducive to networking and brainstorming. In Africa they serve a far more practical purpose. They mitigate the exorbitant costs of setting up and running an office.

Standard commercial office spaces in Nairobi and Uganda cost about $15-to-$16 per square meter (10.76 square feet) a month. Costs in Nigeria are significantly higher, with prices in the range of $40-to-$70 per square meter. The smallest units available are usually no less 100 square meters (1,076 square feet) and most offices are much larger.

“Coworking is best suited to anyone whose major work is based on a laptop. That doesn’t mean you need to be a techie or be running a mobile or web-based company. Any lean kind of business model or entrepreneur will fit in well in a co-working space,” said Hannah Clifford, who runs the Nairobi Garage, in a Disrupt Africa interview.



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