In this week’s edition of AfriLabs hubs feature, we head to North Central Africa to have a chat with Abdelsalam Safi, the Co-founder of WenakLabs in Chad.
WenakLabs is an initiative that aims to offer Chadian entrepreneurs a favorable framework for the development of their projects.
It is the first technological hub in the country which advices, trains, incubates and supports players in the digital and technological ecosystem.
According to its website, the hub receives 1,200 visitors annually and has completed over 50 projects
Adelsalam who is a computer science engineer and an active entrepreneur in the country’s ICT sector stated that the main objective of the hub is to tackle the digital divide by promoting entrepreneurship through coaching sessions and improve its framework on the continent by offering capacity building and mentoring programs as well.
According to the co-founder who is also a Country Director at Founders Institue Chad, the driving force behind WenakLabs was passion, mixed with a commitment to finding solutions for a suitable environment for his computer science students, but especially meeting a person who shares the same values were the triggers.
He also stated that in achieving the hub’s mission, there has to be a pooling of forces and in addition, the vision must be widely shared.
According to him, this process takes a lot of time, however, with education and determination, one can be surrounded by the ideal team and thus achieve their stated goals.
Innovation and entrepreneurship
On how hubs foster innovation and entrepreneurship in their local communities, Adelsalam stated that hubs are the ideal places for pooling intelligence and sharing knowledge.
Explaining further, he said that Chad is a country of innovators where day-to-day innovations can be observed within the innovator’s communities.
“Here, people always have a solution to every problem because, naturally, it is a country where the community is firmly rooted.
Of course, this promotes the values of sharing and solidarity. On the other hand, these are the tools and the favorable environment which are lacking.
This means that innovation is at an embryonic stage and does not favor the emergence of a solid ecosystem.”
Chad’s perception of STEM
From Adelsalam’s point of view, STEM is the appropriate method to increase scientific education in Chad. He noted that there is a strong predominance of staff in literary, legal and economic fields (67.5%) over scientific and technical fields (17.7%) in the country.
“This clearly shows that science education should be strengthened and it turns out that STEM is a good opportunity for basic education in Chad.”
Challenges and milestones
Speaking about WenakLabs’ challenges, the co-founder said that the major ones are in building a community, making the community credible and trying to fund them so as to make the hub autonomous, a result that makes them generate the desired impact.
Adelsalam also noted that WenakLabs is still at the “beginner” stage with its incubator, however, the hub has supported two startups to expand their markets and develop new offers.
Women’s participation in tech
In his words, technology is seen around the world as a matter only for men, however, it appears women are more agile with technology.
“It seems that the number one developer in the world is a woman, which is to say that women are capable of doing more.
Inclusion can also be done from the models. It is a question of making positive discrimination in this direction and of exposing the models like Charlette Nguéssan, of Bace API, the first woman to win the African Prize of the Engineering, that one can motivate the other women to be interested in it and provoke this inclusion.”
Government and AfriLab’s role
On government’s role in supporting innovation hubs in Chad, Adelsalam noted, “already within the legal framework, by favoring the hubs in obtaining administrative authorizations, then by creating a special status for them, so that they can be economically profitable. A hub that is not economically autonomous is doomed to failure.”
On AfriLabs’ role, he said that the platform has allowed WenakLabs to network with the other hubs.
“This is what is natural, moreover. Then it is the ideal place to know if there are calls for projects, sharing of tools and method.”
Featured Image: Abdelsalam Safi, Co-founder of WenakLabs
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