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Summary Parallel session: Tech hub network: Lessons learnt & the road ahead

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During the June 29th parallel session on the AEIP tech hub network, a brief overview was presented on the state of play of the AEIP tech hub network and the self-sustainability plan following the end of the project. A total of 42 tech hubs participated in this session. 

Below is a summary on the presentation given on the AEIP network work: 

  • The first AEIP networking event took place in September 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya; the second and third networking events were virtual events respectively in April 2020 and December 2020.  

  • A total of 127 European and African tech hubs were integrated into the AEIP tech hub network. 

  • To date, 42 partnership agreements between African and European tech hubs. 

  • The collaborations have resulted in a combination of soft-landing support services for startups (networking, mentoring, knowledge exchange, market access, branding) and best practice exchange (exchange missions, joint events, network building, talent scouting). 

In regard to the overview/self-sustainability, the following was presented: 

  • The AEIP pilot project will come to an end in September 2021 

  • Several relevant follow-on initiatives funded by the European Commission, also by African Development Bank & the European Investment Bank will continue to support tech hub networking & start-up exchanges: 

In addition, during this session, Faith Blakehmore presented Enrich in Africa – a Horizon 2020 funded project which will be the official transition project following the end of the AEIP pilot initiative. The Enrich in Africa project has three key focus areas: (i) supporting intercultural, innovation and knowledge exchange between Africa and Europe; (ii) connecting the European and African incubation and acceleration ecosystems, and (iii) reducing barriers to internationalisation through an Enrich in Africa centre to provide support services.  

This session ended with an interactive open plenary where the tech hub participants were asked on share their feedback on the following questions via Mural: what worked well in the AEIP, what didn’t work so well, and what challenges and opportunities to ensure effective African-EU tech hub partnerships.  

In regards to what worked well in the AEIP project and good practice examples of successful tech hub partnerships, the participants in this session stated that the first networking event organised in Kenya was strongly appreciated. This first physical meeting at the beginning of the project was crucial to ensure good working relationships between the tech hubs as it is really necessary to meet physically with people from the beginning to create trust and to agree on a timeline especially when it comes to cooperation between two continents. The participants in this session also mentioned that the effective information and opportunity sharing disseminated by the AEIP team was key and worked well as it was always easily digestible. Two other good practice examples of tech hub partnerships mentioned were the successful knowledge and best practices exchanges between the EU-Africa hubs and that the MoU agreement template shared by the AEIP template which provided effective guidelines on project planning for the hubs.  

On the topic of what didn’t worked as well in the formats provided by the AEIP to support EU-Africa tech hub collaborations, some of the participants mentioned that Zoom virtual events can be very overwhelming and the need for a better tech hub matching platform. The participants emphasized their preference for face-to-face events that provide the physical dimension of being present on the ground in an EU or African country. The participants also mentioned that Covid-19 posed a key challenge and limited the impact of their collaborations. Moreover, that more investors needed to be involved in the AEIP project.  

The general challenges that the tech hubs mentioned they faced in implementing collaborative activities with other hubs include: (i) Brexit, (ii) too many competing activities/opportunities, and (iii) delay in email responses from some tech hub counterparts and the time-consuming task to coordinate and schedule meetings with partners. Pertaining to the thematic challenges that were launched in the AEIP, the tech hubs stressed that as a significant number of their team members are needed to be involved, it is important for similar AEIP thematic challenge initiatives to have a longer horizon and/or roadmap, that announces in advance, the plan to launch a specific thematic initiative. 

To conclude this session, the tech hubs were asked to mention what their plans and needs are for future EU-Africa tech hub collaborations. The most mentioned activities were the following: (i) implementing co-innovation between startups, (ii) look for funding to support joint opportunities, (iii) continued networking events to get to know potential partners, and (iv) meeting in person in Addis Ababa and Brussels. 

To learn more, the PowerPoint slides for the event can be found below