AfriConEU Research Results:
State of play in African DIHs: The case of Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda

AfriConEU Research Results:
State of play in African DIHs: The case of Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda

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.

Key Findings

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.