iSpace joins the wave of incubators setting up across the continent but questions still hover over the ecosystem

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The past two years has seen the steady growth of things that are variously called innovation hubs, incubators and accelerators. They are now creating support networks that give ICT entrepreneurs a much better chance of survival. This week Russell Southwood spoke to Josiah Eyison and reflects of the continuing dangers for this ecosystem.

iSpace came out of a conversation between Ghanaian developers for the need for a space to meet and the lack of reliable internet connectivity. Eyison took that conversation to heart and decided to set up iSpace:îWe will be able to support graduates who donít know where to go. We can support start-ups who donít make it to MEST or the Kumasi Tech Hub.î

ìAnyone can use the co-location space but we donít want it to simply turn into a free Internet cafÈ so there will be a membership and we will talk to those wanting to join about what theyíre trying to achieve and their vision.î

It is run as a social enterprise that offers developers, entrepreneurs (not always the same thing) and those in creative industries connections, resources and training. Based on Oxford Street in Accraís Osu district and covering an entire floor, it gives a visible public presence to all three of these mutually overlapping communities:îIt has a beautiful view over the city and out towards the sea.î

The idea of having creative industries alongside was that the media (whether TV, radio or press) are not very familiar always with ICT and the developer community is currently largely but not completely invisible. The assumption is that if you get the two alongside each other, then there will be a synergy, whether itís with media or film or music.

So far it has attracted 6 start-ups and has a co-working space that can accommodate 60 people. The start-ups include:; another focused on booking cinema and event tickets;  one focused on finding restaurants and another on teaching code to children.

iSpace has attracted funding from the Indigo Trust and ATTI is part of the Google partnership for entrepreneurs. In due course it wants to be able to set up its own UX Lab to help provide research for developers before they start writing apps.

In Senegal, Jokko Labs has begun to roll out a similar formula both within Senegal itself and into other francophone countries on a open franchise model. It does not deal just with ICT but looks more widely at other areas of innovation. Its founder Karim Sy says that it will soon open a Jokko Lab in an abnglophone country, which will be an exciting development, crossing one of the continentís continuing divides:
See video clip interview here

In my heart, I want to see this flourishing of entrepreneurial talent (and best can and have succeeded) but my head can see the many significant barriers that need to be tackled. The OS and handset market is incredibly fragmented, making all but the development of SMS apps a really tough call. Transaction processes remain in the hands of the mobile operators. Their current greed on deal structure (which to be fair, is changing a little) is holding back getting money into the ecosystem.

Developers are not entrepreneurs and vice versa. Too many developers are designing apps for their friends or for problems they think exist but which take a very different for. Unless these diverse new communities (developers, entrepreneurs, creative industries) can articulate what they need and argue for it, they will find themselves up the proverbial creek without a paddle.  Funding fashions change and a lot of hubs will disappear unless they start tackling the fundamentals of building the ecosystem.


Video briefings on:

Making mHealth work:

Maeghan Orton, Medic Mobile on using SMS services to connect rural unconnected clinics
Maeghan Orton, Medic Mobile on how SMS generated health data can be used for decision-making

New content for mobile phones:

Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainana plans to set up a digital publishing house to sell cheap African pulp fiction

Kenyan booking portal set to expand across Africa and in the Middle East:
Johann Jenson, Sleepout.com on how this accommodation portal works and its expansion plans

More successful bloggers are now attracting advertising:
Kennedy Kachwanya on the size of the Kenyan blogosphere and what people are writing about

Think before you launch an app – User-based research essential:
Mark Kamau, UX Lab on how research with users can overcome barriers to mobile apps adoption

Citizen Journalism:
Santos Okottah, Eziki on its citizen journalism app Reporta that's also being used for weddings

TV White Spaces Briefing from Dakar event sponsored by Google and Microsoft:
Paul Mitchell explains Microsoft's TV White Spaces pilots and why it thinks TVWS is important

Kai Wulff on Google's TV White Spaces pilots and why they are important for developing countries

Africa’s Tech Incubators:
Karim Sy on the innovative projects Jokko Labs supports and the expansion of its network

Africa’s first accelerator 88mph:
Nikolai Barnwell - How Africa's first accelerator 88mph will to help create local content & services

Viewing and talking about football in Africa:
Football, TV viewers and social media:
Gary Rathbone, Founder Sports News Africa (formerly Head of Supersports) on African TV sports watching habits and the rise of the tablet as first screen

Premier League football agent Ayo Alli on the launch of his football social network site Gbamm!

Computer gaming in Kenya:
Wesley Kirinya, Leti Games on its new games and comic series based on African myths and legends

Nathan Masyuko on the launch of Kenya's first computer games league

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