16 November 2001

Top Story

This week sees the opening of BusyInternet’s first technology development centre in Accra. The company’s founder Mark Davies has ambitious plans to open a network of technology development centres based upon the same business model across the continent. He has found a young and energetic management team and attracted investors into the project. The Accra opening will be the test case. Russell Southwood describes how the company wants to build something more than just "bricks and mortar".


Veteran entrepreneur Davies (one of the founders of First Tuesday) started BusyInternet over 2 years ago, having taken time out travelling around the continent. He decided on Ghana because it seemed to possess the right circumstances for a successful development of this kind: a lively ICT sector with plenty of potential, a business-friendly government and a wide range of skilled people. Davies has that necessary mixture of charm and steely determination that a venture of this scale requires.


BusyInternet is a joint venture between Ghanaian and American investors to create a series of state of the art technology incubators across Africa. By combining the latest infrastructure, facilities, satellite connectivity and power services, along with a social community of IT entrepreneurs and evangelists, BusyInternet seeks to become what it describes as "the hotspot for the generation of new jobs, businesses, services and products related to IT across Africa".


Each center will have high-quality offices, training rooms, meeting rooms, conference facilities, copy centers, secretarial services, internet access and bar. The Accra center is over 1500 square meters of training/conference facilities, office space, internet access halls (100 machines) and other digital services. Although not completed during my visit to Accra in mid-October, it was clear from those parts nearing completion that this will be a high-quality facility compared to a lot of similar offerings in other African cities. The Ring Road itself seems to provide the nearest thing you get a cluster of ICT companies in a market of this scale.


Accra is the prototype, and plans are already in place to launch other BusyInternets in Tunis, Lagos, Abuja, Dakar among other cities starting next year. This is the largest IT investment in Ghana. It is a high profile commitment to the future of Ghana¹s IT industry and the success of its private sector and global competitiveness. As Mark Davies said: "We are sure Ghana will lead the way for other African countries to participate in the new global opportunities".


BusyInternet has attracted investment from two finance institutions so far- Fidelity Investments and Databank - and is talking to other institutions about its future plans.


Coinciding with the BusyInternet launch, the center will host the first-ever ITAfrica Fair. This 2-day festival will showcase over 50 Ghanaian IT companies and organizations that provide services and highlight the unique prospect Ghana offers for local and global investors and customers.


It is also launching ITAfrica, a database of IT experts and services. You can go online, find information about each IT company in your country, and even read what consumers are saying about each listing (it¹s free to be listed, and free to post comments). Many people think there aren’t many IT resources in Africa; International and local organisations often find it easier to recruit from outside rather than find someone locally. ITAfrica is the first listing of African IT expertise, and the first to give its users a voice.


Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, Minister of Information and Presidential Affairs, Hon. Owusu-Adjapong, Minister of Communications and Technology, and the United States Ambassador to Ghana, Nancy Powell, will be the guests of honour at the official launch of BusyInternet on Friday 23 November.


DIGIPIX: To see pictures of this new Technology Development Centre, go to: http://www.balancingact-africa/pix.html