The findings in this report result from a 6-month research process between February and July 2021 conducted by ATBN in the framework of AfriConEU project. It encompassed desk-based research, qualitative interviews with 60 hub leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, ecosystem enablers and policymakers and two quantitative surveys; an ecosystem with overall 266 respondents across Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania and a DIH capacity needs survey, which was completed by 32 digital hub leaders in the four countries.
Over the last few years, digital innovation has increasingly become an important driver for Africa’s social and economic development. Digital technologies are enabling solutions to address the region’s pressing social challenges and creating a growing number of economic opportunities. At the center of this digital transformation are innovative entrepreneurs supported by an ecosystem of investors, international development and philanthropic partners, policymakers and government actors, corporate partners, ecosystem enablers and Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs). DIHs, in particular, directly support entrepreneurs and play a central role in connecting the various actors and developing the ecosystem. However, African DIHs continue to face several systemic challenges that are limiting their potential as catalysts for digital innovation. Building the capacity of African DIHs to play their role more effectively is therefore crucial to driving digital growth and economic development in the region.
At the same time, the digital economy presents a unique opportunity to enhance trade and economic relations between Europe and Africa.
On the one hand, Europe’s more advanced digital ecosystems present opportunities for transferring technological expertise and investment. On the other, Africa’s growing digital markets and youthful population provide investment and human capital opportunities for European businesses and investors. Therefore, enabling collaboration and developing stronger partnerships between European and African digital innovation ecosystems has the potential to create immense benefits for both regions.
This report examines the digital ecosystems in four African countries, namely Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda, to identify the challenges and opportunities for strengthening digital innovation in these countries. In light of the ongoing COVID – 19 pandemic, it also seeks to understand the pandemic’s impacts on African digital economies.
Thirdly, it looks specifically at the challenges and needs of African DIHs and provides recommendations for their capacity building. And lastly, it identifies the challenges and opportunities for transcontinental partnerships between African and European digital actors.
The report has been written as part of the activities to establish AfriConEU – The first trans-continental networking academy for African and European Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs). The AfriConEU project aims to strengthen Digital Innovation Hubs in Africa by boosting their capacity to foster innovation and growth and empower women and youth through the digital economy.
Additionally, it seeks to facilitate the collaboration between EU and African DIHs to strengthen a common EU – Africa innovation and Startup ecosystem.
The report is divided into four main sections. Section 1 introduces the findings from the desk-based research on providing snapshots of the digital ecosystems in our four focus countries. The section also incorporates data from our roundtables and interviews to contextualize this information to provide an overview of African digital innovation ecosystems. Section 2 relies on interviews, surveys roundtable discussions to explore the impact of COVID -19 on African digital innovation ecosystems. In Section 3, we consider the roles of DIHs, their challenges, and potential recommendations to address these challenges. Finally, Section 4 presents a set of recommendations for the AfriConEU project, specifically around designing effective capacity Building programmes for African DIHs and enabling Africa – EU collaboration.
The full extent of the COVID – 19 pandemic’s impact on Africa’s digital innovation ecosystem and DIHs is yet to be determined. However, this study presents a timely and much-needed overview of the current situation. Furthermore, it showcases the importance and resilience of Africa’s DIHs. The information gathered by engaging with stakeholders provides key insights into the challenges and needs of African DIHs working through a global pandemic. These insights provide the basis for the recommendations presented in this report. In line with AfriConEU’s commitment to knowledge sharing, we anticipate that this study will serve as the foundation for more knowledge creation about African DIHs and the impact of COVID -19 on digital innovation.
Finally, we hope that the findings of this report will provide useful information to those interested In strengthening African digital ecosystems and EU – Africa innovation partnerships.
Read all the Research Results here.