The past 19 years have seen AfricaCom working closely with the technology community across the African continent to establish itself as the premier tech event in Africa. This goal has been attained so the time has come to up the stakes. This has been the thought process behind the decision to elevate AfricaCom from not just being the premier tech event on the Continent, but also the most powerful vehicle for digital transformation, economic development and social empowerment.
One of the most exciting ways in which this new goal in positioning has been attained is through the establishment of AHub, which commenced last year. AHub has partnered with Africa’s leading accelerators and innovation hubs in creating the perfect meeting place for the start-up community. In this space, business-ready entrepreneurs, start-ups, developers and accelerators are provided the space to network, seal deals and generally just interact with investors, venture capitalists and business mentors. Currently, this is the only event of scale in Africa, which presents such valuable opportunities for the businesses of tomorrow. Such set-ups are imperative if Africa is to take the lead in the 4th Industrial Revolution!
2014 saw the launch of one of the ventures I am most passionate about, the Cortex Hub. The idea to launch the Cortex Hub was prompted by the need for an ICT-based organization which would be aimed at empowering entrepreneurs to use technology to solve socio-economic challenges which would be tried and tested in the Eastern Cape, but would inevitably be solutions that could be used on a global scale. The purpose of the Cortex hub was to create an enabling environment for the innovators it would house. The Cortex Hub would activate, nurture and support the entrepreneurs whilst developing a robust entrepreneurship eco-system.
A lot can happen in a space of two years and it has not been any different for the Cortex Hub. A lot of industry insight has been gathered, we have restructured in some ways, one of the most notable being the attitude we have started to adopt of also embracing the creative economy in looking for game-changing solutions. We have also learnt that a lot more is required in terms of changing attitudes when it comes to sparking enthusiasm in the South African youth in choosing the entrepreneurship route as opposed to the conventional corporate one. This will require a shift in thinking at all levels, from the support structures the youth have at their disposable, to the way they envision their futures, and even in the way they are educated at tertiary institutions. We face very challenging times in terms of adjusting mindsets but it’s a necessary battle when one considers all that is at stake.
Adjusting mindsets also seems like a challenge one can conquer when one views the progress made by some of the start-ups that have been incubated and accelerated at the Cortex Hub. These start-ups will be showcasing their products at this year’s AfricaCom (under AHub) and pitching for investment. We are very proud of the progress they have made and hope they will take full advantage of the opportunity at hand.
The event also presents an opportunity for the Cortex Hub to position itself as a household name in the entrepreneurship space whilst also publicizing the fact that we are in a recruitment phase for the 2017’s intake. I would encourage all aspiring entrepreneurs to apply as soon as possible, as space is limited to ensure all our start-ups receive adequate attention, something hard to do when you are incubating and accelerating hundreds of them. For Africa to take the lead in the 4th Industrial Revolution, requires that everyone plays his or her part in ensuring the environment is entrepreneurship-friendly.