Tech and innovation ecosystems across Africa have grown at an undeniably rapid rate in recent years. With the rise of tech clusters as well as entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystems in cities such as Lagos, Johannesburg, Cairo, Nairobi, and notable hubs like Hive (Kumasi, Ghana), CoCreation Hub (Lagos, Nigeria), Tech Village (Bulawayo, Zimbabwe) and much more, it is yet to be seen what will become of the innovations and transformations that can be birthed if these are maximized.
An accurate understanding of the need for ecosystems will ensure sustainability in not just creating new ecosystems but also facilitating the effectiveness and efficiency of existing ones.
To fully grasp the need for ecosystems, let’s go back to the basics for a moment. Elementary biology explains an ecosystem as a community of living organisms and the non-living components of the environment interrelating as a system.
In a similar vein, an innovation ecosystem is a complex community of key actors contributing interdependently to facilitate innovation which leads to social and economic wellbeing. These actors include changemakers, stakeholders, venture capitalists, private investors, accelerators, entrepreneurs, government, universities, community members, mentors, etc. Whether what is in view is a tech or innovation ecosystem, all these players have a role to play in the transformation of societies.
Now, let us examine the Need for Ecosystems
● Ecosystems Help Breed Oneness of Culture and Community Development
A particular beauty that comes along in the ecosystem is the grooming of culture which if misplaced is detrimental to whatsoever hard work that might have been put in place for years. Every ecosystem needs a culture to grow by, while the culture might evolve over time it is a necessary requirement.
● Ecosystems Provide the Needed Infrastructure to Access Funding
For ideas to become reality and scale, most times the need for funds becomes very pronounced. Ecosystems tend to provide the infrastructure and resources that can attract both internal and external funding. Ecosystems often have private investors or venture capitalists and angel investors seeking to fund viable ideas. In addition, since most people put their mouths where their money is, they tend to offer required and necessary guidance to startups by acting as mentors and in some cases, forming boards under whose guidance businesses scale.
● Ecosystems Allow Talent Growth and Management
Ecosystems provide a growth platform for talent development in both technical and operational forms facilitating growth from novices to skilled individuals. Ecosystems are made up of several individuals who bring in skills, personality traits, strengths and tendencies necessary for business success. It is a great talent pool that is available to move the endeavours of the community to the next level.
● Ecosystems Encourage Collaboration
As a result of the number and various professional background of individuals that form the community, collaboration and network building is highly encouraged. This is based on the realization that what is missing in one person can be found in another and builds a form of reliance on the community. In the long run, everyone wins in collaboration and thrives.
● Ecosystems Provide a Support system
Ecosystems provide resources needed for incubation, acceleration and other programmes necessary to facilitate the nurturing of ideas into viable products. Ideas need not only to be birthed into reality but require a lot of factors put in place to also ensure they are well-structured, positioned, launched as well as sustained. Hence, the need for such communities and not isolation.