Innovation Hubs in Africa: An Entrepreneurial Perspective
18 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2018
Date Written: May 25, 2017
Innovation hub organizations, or hubs, have proliferated across the African continent, which has caused excitement but also disillusionment among stakeholders of technology entrepreneurship. This paper takes a step back from the debate about whether hubs work, and instead tries to clarify what work hubs do for African technology entrepreneurs. The study summarizes practical implications from a multi-year empirical inquiry into how hubs work, and documents the perspective of entrepreneurs. The findings show that entrepreneurial participation in hubs is a key success factor. However, hub participation is socially complex, in that different entrepreneurs’ decisions and levels of commitment continuously affect each other. The paper then discusses what difference innovation hubs can realistically make for technology entrepreneurs, highlighting that hubs’ biggest potential lies in creating communities of entrepreneurs, while they rarely have significant impact on any given entrepreneur’s individual journey. Hubs are thus facilitators and not creators of interactive, collaborative, and collective entrepreneurial value creation. They depend on active participation of their constituents and on a good fit with their local environments. Funders, leaders, and supporters are thus advised to refrain from seeing hubs as interventions that lead to linear impact chains, as this misconception appears to have caused many false expectations towards African hubs.
Keywords: innovation hubs, technology entrepreneurship, Africa, entrepreneurial ecosystems, incubators, entrepreneurial communities
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