In order to do this, we need deep reform by policy makers, who can do much more to promote business activities in science, technology and innovation. They can foster the creation of an environment where entrepreneurs can grow their small and medium–size sized companies, improve access to capital and help firms establish international partnerships.
The global rules for foreign direct involvement in how Africans should run their businesses must now also change. Countries with “robust” infrastructures - like South Africa, Rwanda, Zambia, Gabon and Angola - with highly trained workforces and large domestic markets are positioning themselves in this highly competitive game and are succeeding. Other countries must follow their lead.
There is also a need for the education system in Africa to incorporate and promote science and technology if they want to match the rest of the world in the decades to come. Connecting African countries with the internet only cannot always be the mean of successful development programs.
Progress like this that involves government will take time and cannot be relied upon alone. So we must seize on home grown initiatives, like the tech hubs, and nurture them. We must give them – and the people who work in them - every chance of succeeding on their own terms. Africans are entrepreneurial by nature.
At the moment, access to seed capital, Internet connections and operational cost are extremely high; local and international visibility, credible references to allow private and government’s contracts, and the lack of business development or overall marketing strategy knowledge.
The idea of these tech hubs is to provide a space to Africans to unlock their talented potential, to share, create, innovate and transform. They should be “for Africans by Africans”. Already, I see umbrella groups and bureaucracy beginning to invade these spaces. We must strongly reject this and create an environment where the founders and leaders of these hubs are empowered to dictate their own futures. It should come from the bottom up.
We must also find them new sources of money. Currently, they must rely on significant funding from outside sources to succeed. African governments and the private sector needs to be more supportive as neither donor nor investor money will last forever. We are already seeing investors, getting hot under the collar about their return on investment. Whilst technology giants, such as Google, are coming to the party but there is a missing piece in the puzzle.
Africa is known to have resources and some wealthy African individuals - including people within the diaspora - with a solid connection to their country of origin. They can surely invest more into the private sectors in Africa, transfer their skills or even be their mentors. These tech hubs need all the help they can get from these individuals, but we know there is a deficit of trust amongst Africans and rarely see these people invest into sectors they are not familiar with.
But, I say, all of this must change. We as Africans have an opportunity to shape our own destiny, work together and collaborate more. We must seize the opportunity and enable the communities around us. Our great communal force is needed to make this work. All of us need to get involved.
Marieme Jamme is a CEO, blogger, technologist and social entrepreneur with a commitment to helping empower her fellow Africans through education, leadership, social entrepreneurship and economic development. She was recently nominated by CNN as one of the Top 10 more influential voices on Tech in Africa.