Scaling Africa’s Digital Economy: Accelerating market innovation via an enabling startup ecosystem

July 28, 2023

Download the full policy brief here

High-growth startups are critical for market innovation, job creation, and economic growth at both national and regional levels, making it imperative to create an enabling ecosystem that can help them thrive. Portulans Institute Fellow Raymond Onuoha developed a regional policy brief assessing the enablers of the emerging startup ecosystem in Africa, the challenges to their scaling, and the contextual influencing factors for the key startup hubs within the continent – Cape Town (South Africa), Nairobi (Kenya), Lagos (Nigeria), and Cairo (Egypt). The paper’s primary objectives are to benchmark Africa’s key startup hubs with leading global tech ecosystems with respect to their potential to catalyze the startup ecosystem for market innovation, in order to recommend specifically-targeted policies for scaling the fledgling startup ecosystem in Africa. 

Drawing data from secondary academic literature and policy reports, relevant standardized databases and rankings, as well as semi-structured interviews with startup investors, entrepreneurs, industry trade groups, innovation policy experts, and public leadership within Africa’s digital ecosystem, the paper highlights Cape Town’s relatively robust logistics infrastructure, the poor logistics Infrastructure and weak technology transfer system of the Lagos ecosystem, Nairobi’s optimal ICT regulatory environment, and Cairo’s high number of relevant educational institutions as critical levers to engage in scaling the fledgling digital ecosystem across the continent. A strength-weakness assessment will enable the recommendation of specifically-targeted policies for scaling the startup ecosystem in Africa.

The full policy brief is available for download here

Raymond Onuoha is a Technology Policy Fellow at the Lagos Business School (LBS) Nigeria, where his research focuses on the institutional and policy challenges in the evolution of the digital economy and technology innovation in developing countries, with a special focus on sub-Sahara Africa. His consulting expertise covers the domain areas of digital transformation and innovation, Internet governance and standardization, and telecommunications policy. He also works as a Research Consultant with regional ICT policy and regulation think-tanks, Research ICT Africa (RIA), South Africa and IT4Change (Canada), conducting  multidisciplinary research on digital governance, policy and regulation and the facilitation of evidence-base to inform policy making for improved access, use and application of digital technologies for social and economic development in Africa.

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