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Matter of Life & Tech

Inside East Africa’s technology hubs

About the author

Jonathan Kalan is an independent journalist and photographer specializing in social innovations in emerging markets. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, he frequently reports from around the region, specialising in the spaces where technological innovation, social justice and media converge. You can find him on Twitter at @kalanthinks

  • Trigger point
    Nairobi’s iHub is perhaps the poster child of Africa’s tech scene, opening its doors to technologists, investors, companies and hackers in early 2010. (Copyright: Jonathan Kalan)
  • World changer
    Henry Addo and Linda Kamau work on Ushahidi at the iHub. The software is used globally to crowdsource information, particularly during natural disasters.(Copyright: Jonathan Kalan)
  • Europe express
    Across the border is TanzICT’s Innovation Space. The Dar es Salaam hub opened in 2011 and was co-funded by Finland to kick-start tech in Tanzania. (Copyright: Jonathan Kalan)
  • Charged up
    “The environment is cool, it’s convenient,” says student Nzota Yonazi, who works out of the hub. “and at my place… the power is usually out.” (Copyright: Jonathan Kalan)
  • Hubs and hubs
    Down the road is another space called Kinu. It was launched in September by a group of Dar es Salaam’s technology entrepreneurs to “spark innovation”. (Copyright: Jonathan Kalan)
  • Phone home
    Many innovations at Kinu are aimed at mobiles, such as Arnold Minde's Safari Yetu, which helps bus and boat owners manage reservations and take payments.(Copyright: Jonathan Kalan)
  • Political gain
    Many spaces are privately funded, but governments are also now getting involved. Rwanda's kLab is part of President Kagame’s plan to develop the country.(Copyright: Jonathan Kalan)
  • Try and try
    Jean Niyotwagira is currently running two companies out of kLab, including social network Twihute. “It’s a great space to try and fail” he says. (Copyright: Jonathan Kalan)
  • Social space
    The hubs are not just about work. They also act as focal point for the tech community to come together, learn and, of course party. (Copyright: Jonathan Kalan)
  • Game on
    No space is complete without a fussball table. Although hubs collaborate regularly, a pan-African fussball tournament would be fiercely competitive. (Copyright: Jonathan Kalan)
From Kigali to Kampala, Dar es Salaam to Dakar, Cameroon to Kenya and across the African continent, new collaborative workspaces and technology hubs are emerging as beacons for the hi-tech hopes and dreams of the continent.

As fibre optic cables continue to lay the foundations for a new era of African innovation, the continent is undergoing a dramatic “tech-hub boom”. There are now more than 50 tech hubs, labs, incubators and accelerators across Africa, with a new one springing up nearly every two weeks.

These hubs portray a very different Africa to the one often seen in the media and attract creative, young tech graduates who come in search of opportunity. In most cities, these spaces offer students, programmers, developers, entrepreneurs, creative, investors and techies a place to work, network and create for the first time.

As these spaces become the nerve centres for the tech community, they also become critical international touch-points for those seeking to engage in technology and business in Africa. They are the new points of exchange for long-term expatriates and short-term visitors looking to identify trends, find local talent, and catch the African wave of innovation.

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