Incubators are promoting entrepreneurial innovation in Africa


Christian Jekinnou

Excecutive Manager of Afric’innov

Organisations supporting innovative entrepreneurship (SAEIs for Structures d’Accompagnement à l’Entrepreneuriat Innovant) are providing hubs for innovation networks to flourish around them. But they’re not getting the backing they need.

Take Chris, a doctor in Benin. One day, he loses one patient too many because the blood for the transfusion he needed didn’t reach him on time. He sees how digital technology can help in this kind of emergency, so he starts working on a new project, VITAL, a geolocation app that connects blood donors and patients to ease the reliance on undersupplied blood banks.

The problem is that Chris knows a lot about medicine but not much about developing apps or marketing them. How can he develop the app, tell the right people about it and find funding for it? Who should he team up with? What business model does he need for his app to be viable? He asks around and realises that no government agencies can help. So he makes his way to Etrilabs, an SAEI that incubates projects and fast-tracks young pioneering businesses. Etrilabs provides Chris with an equipped workspace, bespoke coaching, expertise and financing.

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Etrilabs is one of the many African incubators that provide integrated support. This SAEI, in other words, is helping innovative enterprises like VITAL, and many of them are harnessing digital technology to solve genuine problems identified by people in the real world. Sadly, however, not many people know about these SAEIs and governments aren’t providing them with enough support. As their “customers” have limited resources, most of these organisations are struggling to build sustainable business models – even though they are creating jobs and wealth. For the time being, initiatives such as Afric’innov (a mechanism to bolster SAEI resources) and groups such as Orange are making up for some of the governments’ shortcomings.

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Alexandre Florentin

Climate change and moving towards corporate carbon neutrality