Our Great Minds series of posts explores pioneering coworking spaces around the world. Before now we have looked at Germany and the US, but this week my attention has been drawn to a number of coworking and similar schemes in Africa. So let’s take a look at some which have really caught our eye:
iHub: Nairobi, Kenya
Nairobi’s innovation hub is the first of its kind in Kenya and prides itself on meeting the needs of the city’s prospective technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers. The large open plan co-working office boasts huge windows, around 3700 square feet of floorspace and a balcony with great views – as well as a 20mb internet connection to inspire and aid young entrepreneurs, programmers, designers and researchers. iHub operates via a membership system which also allows users to enter the community remotely online.
Open Innovation Studio: Cape Town, South Africa
Of all the African countries, coworking spaces and incubators appear to be most abundant in South Africa with projects like Geekspace and Bandwidth Barn already well established. Dirk Visser, founder of Open Innovation Studio in Cape Town, has endeavoured to blend the best attributes of a shared office, classroom, coffee shop and gallery to establish a community of innovators in the city. Since 2008 the space has welcomed a range of tenants eager to work, share, learn, and change the world – and have sought to make international links with social innovation schemes such as the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto, Canada.
Bantalabs: St Louis, Senegal
On the surface Bantalabs is a bilingual international web and mobile app development company with offices in Paris, France and St Louis, Senegal. However, in keeping with their explicit aim to empower people and invest in the community, Bantalabs have also established their own coworking space in St Louis for freelancers and start-ups (with a technology bent) to have an accessible place to work – whilst at the same time promoting the use, creation and development of open source software in the country. They are currently inviting everyone to drop by to check out the offices and already have plans to establish another in the capital Dakar.
Limbe Labs Ventures: Limbe, Cameroon
Limbe Labs community and collaboration space has been set up to help foster an indigenous high-tech start-up sector in Cameroon. Limbe Labs believe there are six key elements to ensure a creative work environment for freelancers and start-ups: collaboration, openness, community, accessibility, sustainability and support. They offer two membership levels, the cheaper option allowing use of the space for two days a week while a more full-time option comes at a slightly higher price. Yet, they also offer free drop-in opportunities so prospective users can have a taste of their stimulating environment.