Twitter delivered a shock for Africa when it stated it was establishing a regional headquarters within the West African nation of Ghana, triggering vigorous debate in regards to the enterprise atmosphere for know-how start-ups throughout the continent.
For the social media large, its choice was primarily based on shared values – Ghana helps “free speech, on-line freedom, and the open web”.
The actual fact it additionally serves because the HQ for the African Continental Free Commerce Space – established to speed up intra-African commerce and freedom of motion – appears to have cemented Ghana’s enchantment as a gateway to the area.
Ghana was a approach of changing into “extra immersed within the wealthy and vibrant communities that drive the conversations happening every single day throughout the African continent”, Twitter stated.
Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo was fast to retweet the information, saying it was the beginning of a “lovely partnership” and important for the event of Ghana’s tech hub.
“These are thrilling instances to be in, and to do enterprise in Ghana.”
But many trade leaders have been initially surprised.
“In Africa what has usually been thought-about the tech hubs of the continent have historically been Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya,” says Kenya-based Kagure Wamunyu, who leads the growth of Kobo 360, a digital haulage start-up that connects freight house owners with lorry drivers.
Kenya particularly, she says, has efficiently nurtured an enabling atmosphere for the know-how ecosystem and leads the pack in terms of excessive ranges of web penetration.
“So it was an fascinating alternative, however the transfer to Ghana continues to be a win for the continent.”
‘High quality of management’
On reflection, Nigerian tech pioneer Femi Longe agrees Ghana was an apparent alternative.
“Nigeria is a giant enticing market but when we’re trustworthy it is a very harsh place to do enterprise. Ghana has invested rather a lot in recent times on creating an atmosphere that’s enticing for individuals coming from the surface.”
He has labored in two of the continent’s most vibrant tech hubs, in Nigeria’s primary metropolis Lagos, he co-founded the Co-Creation Hub which then acquired Kenya’s iHub – one other main innovation centre.
He thinks the proactiveness of Ghana’s president clearly performed a pivotal position in Twitter’s choice.
“If you happen to have a look at Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria when it comes to political stability and high quality of management, there’s just one nation that stands out.
“If an organization is considering the potential impression of presidency coverage, I might go together with Ghana. Ghana is an entry level to Nigeria, so that you get the complete advantages of entry to the Nigerian market with none of the dysfunction that comes with being there.”
Nigeria ‘stifling entrepreneurship’
And Nigeria’s “dysfunction” grew to become a talking-point after the announcement with start-up founders sharing their experiences.
Nigerian Info Minister Lai Mohammed blamed the media’s unfavourable protection of Nigeria for Twitter’s snub, saying: “That is what you get once you de-market your individual nation.”
Nonetheless, some, reminiscent of Nkemdilim Uwaje Begho – the CEO of Lagos-based digital advertising agency FutureSoft – argue that the problems go far deeper in Nigeria, the place insurance policies are usually reactive not enabling, failing to seek the advice of those that work in what’s a thriving tech trade.
“Throughout sectors we have seen regulators step in to manage after know-how firms have disrupted the market,” she says.
“Whereas regulation is sweet, what it typically means is that you simply’re creating boundaries to entry by creating excessive licence charges for instance. Regulators want to consider the larger image and the long-term impression of those rules and insurance policies.”
A latest instance of regulation stifling entrepreneurship was the 2020 ban of economic motorbike taxis from core enterprise and residential areas of Lagos – launched as various internationally funded ride-hailing platforms, together with Gokada, ORide and Max.ng, launched to service the large demand.
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Ghanaians in the meantime are hoping that their financial system will bounce excessive on the Twitter trampoline – but additionally wish to see native individuals being employed.
“It will be good to see in the event that they introduce a quota, that perhaps the federal government imposes to get them to recruit a sure proportion of Ghanaians,” says Regina Honu, who runs Soronko Academy, a digital expertise growth centre in Ghana’s capital, Accra.
“With different organisations coming in you see a variety of diasporans returning and there shall be a number of different Africans seeking to come and work in Ghana. Hopefully they are going to are available in and interact with growing expertise.”
Her organisation is amongst various firms flourishing inside Ghana’s more and more vibrant tech scene.
When George Appiah, govt director of Ghana Tech Lab, which helps develop innovation and entrepreneurial expertise, began out nearly a decade in the past, there have been solely three know-how hubs in Accra.
Right now there are round 50 throughout the nation, together with the corporate he based, Kumasi Hive.
“In comparison with different international locations the place you would possibly discover the tech area thriving in just one metropolis like Nairobi or Lagos, in Ghana we now have the ecosystem rising in such a approach that you’ve got a variety of start-ups in Kumasi, in Takoradi, in Tamale after which Accra. It’s extremely decentralised and that is a testomony to the depth of the ecosystem.”
In 2012 the federal government had little or no curiosity within the sector, he says.
“Now we now have a authorities who’s appreciating the digital area and the position of tech start-ups.
“Efforts have been made step by step to supply insurance policies to assist start-ups. Native investments are rising over time.”
‘Hotbed of innovation’
Whereas that is laudable, Ghanaian entrepreneur Herman Chinery-Hesse says home know-how corporations are sometimes undervalued whereas worldwide firms are positioned on a pedestal.
He based one in all West Africa’s main software program growth corporations, the SOFTtribe, greater than 25 years in the past and says he would have anticipated to see extra home-grown corporations or African social media platforms with clout.
“The place are the Ghanaian ‘Twitters’? Are native firms being given the assist that they should additionally grow to be ‘Twitters’?”
Regardless of these sentiments, Mr Chinery-Hesse says he does consider there shall be a “spill-over” when it comes to jobs and a possible inflow of international multinationals influenced by Twitter’s presence.
All of it factors to Ghana changing into the “hotbed of innovation”, as former senior Twitter govt Bruce Daisley places it.
“I feel it is an actual eager endorsement of Africa,” he says about Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey’s Ghana transfer.
“Jack was actually impressed by the spirit of invention and the spirit of entrepreneurial creativity. I feel this small child step is a mirrored image of that.”