In this week’s edition of AfriLabs’ hub featuring innovation centers across Africa, visited Tanzania to meet Francis Omorojie, the Founder and CEO of Ennovate Hub
Francis has been supporting tech Startups for the past 4 years across the continent, through its transformative venture-building fund program, corporate innovation consulting to emerging companies in Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.
To date, more than 123 tech startups have been supported from idea to commercialization.
Francis has also led early-stage investments in tech start-ups such as LyfPlus, a Telemedicine startup in Tanzania, Ona Creatives, E-Commerce platform for African creative products, SasaGo, an on-demand last-mile logistic tech company, Farm Boksi, a B2B e-Commerce platform for farm products and GigsAfrica, a digital freelance marketplace for Africa’s digital entrepreneurs.
He has worked with different ecosystem stakeholders across the corporate and entrepreneurship sectors in Africa.
With his in depth experience within Africa’s business landscape, Francis has been able to support several startup clients in setting up and scaling their business through business development and investment readiness services.
Currently, Francis is working with The United Nations International Trade Centre as an international consultant for tech entrepreneurship ecosystem mapping and also consulting for GIZ in identifying and supporting innovative projects across East Africa that are facilitating EAC Integration.
In this chat, Francis, we learnt how Ennovate Hub is empowering tech founders in East Africa.
According to the founder, the driving force behind founding Ennovate Hub was to help young people across Africa harness and unleash their potentials through entrepreneurship development.
“As the youngest continent in the world, we have the capability of rewriting our story by creating local innovative solutions for our communities, commercialize them to grow economies and create more jobs.”
Ennovate Hub is committed to helping young Africans develop their ideas into scalable enterprises, with the hope of powering young people to becoming drivers of our economy through entrepreneurship.
Explaining further, the founder said that, the hub is achieving its vision by offering top level venture building and funding support to underserved tech founders in East Africa.
“Through our venture building program, we offer capacity building, talent sourcing and development for startups, access to market and investment connections to help startups successfully scale up their ventures.”
Innovation and entrepreneurship
On how hubs are fostering Innovation and entrepreneurship in their local communities, Francis explained that these innovation centers are playing a very crucial role by providing platforms for entrepreneurs to receive business support for free, access sector-based mentorship, build corporate partnerships to help them scale into the market.
“Hubs are also providing pre-revenue funding to help startup founders proof concept and prepare for VC funding.”
On the state of innovation and entrepreneurship in Tanzania, the founder explained that the country’s innovation ecosystem is at the nascent stage and gradually building a strong momentum to become a big name in Africa.
“Development organizations, Innovation Hubs, Corporates and Government Agencies are playing a very important role in shaping Tanzania’s innovation ecosystem through a collaborative effort in funding innovation projects, providing market connections and early-stage funding to startups.”
According to Francis, the Government is already looking into creating Startup Act and Policies that will help provide a more conducive environment for startups to thrive.
“We expect to experience a boom in Tanzania’s innovation ecosystem in few years to come. This is the right time for other innovation stakeholders to start venturing into Tanzania’s market to support the ecosystem and tap into opportunities that presents itself through the growing economy of the country.”
STEM Reception in Tanzania
Francis explained that STEM is gradually becoming a trend in our ecosystem, as both government and private sectors are beginning to embrace STEM as a springboard towards building a competent generation ready for the future of work.
“We see some startups and innovation hubs like Robotech Lab pioneering STEM education by creating basic STEM modules for primary and secondary school students.
This is a great way of building high interest in science, technology and engineering among the next generation of talents that will be leading businesses and startups.”
Challenges and milestones
As explained by the founder some of the challenges bore down to not having a sustainable funding approach for the hubs programs and finding the right talents to support startups founders.
“As we continue to expand our reach and the number of startups in our venture-building program increases, there is a need to unlock more funding models to sustain the growth and support we offer to startups.”
Francis also commented finding competent talents to support startups in its portfolio is another challenge that could hinder the quality of support the hub is providing to startups.
However, In the past 3 years, Ennovate hub has worked with more than 120 startups to turn their ideas into commercial products through our top-level incubation programs.
“Since the launch of our venture building fund, we have helped 8 startups from idea to commercialization in the last 6 months and also supported 4 of them to secure further funding to continue growing their ventures.”
Government and AfriLab’s role
According to Francis, the government can play a significant role in supporting hub operations by creating a more friendly investment environment to allow ease inflow of external investment into our ecosystem.
AfriLabs has also been a crucial part of our Ennovate hub’s development.
“Through our engagement with AfriLab’s Capacity Building Programme, we have been able to restructure our operational model to include sustainability.”
The hub is now focused on embedding sustainability across all our programs and this has helped it to identify new revenue models that it is currently piloting through its products and services.
Women’s participation in Technology
On women in technology, Francis explained that their participation has recently experienced a good jump and it has continued to grow.
Ennovate hub has been running a gender-inclusive program to give women a conducive platform to realize their potential in the tech sector.
The hub is now launching a female founder program, aiming to provide end-to-end business support and a safe space for female tech founders to grow their ventures and connect with other successful female founders for mentorship and partnerships.
In the coming weeks, Ennovate hub will launch FLEDGE! a startup-focused talent sourcing platform that will help startups find the right talents for their business.
The platform will give startups the opportunity and flexibility to create job opportunities and state the terms of engagement for such opportunities.
They can list volunteering, remote or low budget opportunities and we connect them to best fit talents globally. With this solution, startups are able to find the right talent, within their budget and continue building their remarkable venture.