TECH STARS ALIGN IN THE MIST OF A REVOLUTION

Creative Stars In Their Elements

The Mission

The creative entrepreneurship and technological revolution is cultivating in Africa and in the mist of the revolution, stars are aligning. I found myself among the young, talented and driven stars of the revolution recently when I represented my hub (Sensi Tech Innovation Hub, Freetown) in a four day Hubs Managers Workshop in Abuja, Nigeria, organized by the British Council and facilitated by Nesta UK as part of a Creative Hubs Programme. The Programme aims to support selected hubs from across the globe to strengthen their sustainability, develop their business capacity building and advisory services for the benefit of artists and creative entrepreneurs. This is to be achieved through a programme of facilitator-led and peer-to-peer learning and networking for hub managers or founders involved in the day-to-day leadership or management of the chosen hubs. The workshops were the initial capacity building exercises for Hub managers/founders from across West Africa (namely Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Sierra Leone) following other successful workshops in Asia, Eastern Europe and South America. The West African programme is expected to create a more vibrant network of stronger hubs across West Africa and the UK that stimulates increased capacity in creative ecosystems in the hubs’ locations.

Discovering and Learning From The Pioneers    

The workshops were held between the 5th – 8th of December 2017 at the British Council office in Abuja and divided into four thematic days. On the first day we discovered the similarities, differences and diversity of the hubs represented at the workshop through exploring each hubs’ methodological principles and operational practices, by learning about their backgrounds, operational features and structures, achievements and challenges from each hub’s representatives. This included Dakar Lives which started in Senegal and now has branches in Mali, Lome and Guinea, Conakry while accumulating an admirable victual following of over 62k in Dakar alone through effective strategic social media promotions. Also, Sensi Tech Innovation Hub, leading the way as the first and only innovation hub in Sierra Leone with achievements that include offering funding of up to $10,000 that has supported 14 entrepreneurial ventures in 2017 alone through its Comic Relief Fire Starter business incubation and acceleration program. Although diverse in methodology and operational practices, the hubs’ immense socioeconomic impact within their respective ecosystem is unquestionable. The second day examined the hubs’ customer profiling, management and sustainability models. There were lessons to be learn from hubs such as Aiivon and Ventures Platform (VP), both in Abuja. We visited Aiivon briefly to experience their setup while VP had the pleasure of hosting us for an interactive dinner with potential partners and donors including BBC Media Africa and the Vice President’s office. Both hubs’ core customers are private and entrepreneurial businesses renting their co-working space, as well as business ventures they’re supporting through their business incubation and acceleration programs. The hubs’ spaces offer customers different benefits. Aiivon had the luxury of a good location that combines a comfortable, open plan and private co-working spaces for their customers. While VP’s location wasn’t ideal, it has’ the luxury of a spacious compound which they’ve utilized well to expand their customer reach by using creative building and shipping container structures to build co-working spaces, a gym, and an outdoor garden available for rent. The final day focused on the business aspect of the hubs looking at planning, development, management, and growth models. The session drew from the previous sessions to shape and support existing and future planning, development, management, and growth models for our respective businesses.

                                                                    Creatives Hard At Work In Synergy

Future Outlook: Limitless Potential

The workshops were revolutionary and pioneering in identifying, linking and building relationships among the 25 representatives from influential creative hubs in Anglophone and Francophone West African Regions. The workshops served to ignite digital and practical mediums that connect, engage and encourage collaborations through networking, experience, and information sharing, access to opportunities, training and funding. Moreover, the British Council Creative Hubs Program for West Africa has been prolific in celebrating and supporting as well as acknowledging the impressive success and potential of the participating hubs in addressing pressing socioeconomic issues in their respective ecosystems through their futuristic tech models of development. The Creative Hubs program is scheduled to run for 2 years but based on the success of the initial workshops, the possibility of an extension is strong. This is great news indeed as through programs such as the Hubs Manager Workshops, the opportunity to support the development and growth of this cohort of creative hubs as well as future ones is immense. Together, we can create concrete modern alternative tech solutions to persistent pressing socioeconomic and educational challenges impacting the region. Also, it compliments and will spur the growth of entrepreneurship and technology in the region. This cultivates innovation among youths who are cognizant to the potential of creativity, entrepreneurship and technology as a viable agency to economic freedom and positive social impact. These youths however need guidance and tangible support systems to develop and grow, a role which these creative hubs have fully embodied and proven. Hence, the investments of organizations such as the British Council through programmes like the Creative Hubs Programme strengthen the positions and impact of these revolutionary hubs and individuals in their respective ecosystems. The great Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela once said, “The greatest glory lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” The story of Africa falling has been told too many times. It’s time to shine a light and join the revolutionary creative Africans rising above and changing the falling narratives of Africa.

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