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Inside the tech hub movement: In-depth lessons from a global mobile entrepreneurship initiative

Toni Kristian Eliasz's picture



“The technology startup scene has grown from zero to hundred in the last three years”, a Mobile Monday co-founder in Bangkok recently told us.  Amazingly, the same statement could have been made in Bogota, Kampala, Kingston or Tbilisi (Check out a collection of videos that tell the stories of these mobile startups). Fueled by better and better ICT and mobile Internet infrastructure as well as lower barriers to entry, tech entrepreneurship is on the rise globally, and the World Bank and others are increasingly looking to leverage the trend to foster sustained economic and social development.

In the U.S. and Europe, startup accelerators have been the flavor of the day, whereas in Africa, Asia, and other emerging markets, entrepreneurial buzz was driven more by the rise of tech hubs. For those new to the topic: Tech hubs connect stakeholder groups, leverage resources, and fill gaps in innovation ecosystems, all for the ultimate benefit of grassroots, early-stage entrepreneurs who develop technological solutions like mobile applications.

There is no cookie cutter approach to building a tech hub. Having been involved with several entrepreneurial communities around the world, we can say that tech hubs come in different shapes and sizes, depending on the available people and resources and on the needs of the ecosystem.

Implementation models range from regular meet-ups to co-working spaces with tiered membership, as well as sector-specific startup enablers such as infoDev’s network of mLabs and mHubs. As is the case for startups supported by the hubs, building a well-oiled machine with a business model that can run on its own takes vision and courage from tech hub leadership, while testing hypotheses to learn and iterate is crucial.

At the same time, infoDev’s stakeholders are asking us to provide them with general insights into the sustainability as well as the results and outcomes of tech hubs—both foundations of their long-term legacy, as Tim Kelly pointed out in his recent blog post. Networks such as AfriLabs are important vehicles to ensure learning among peers, but most have no time and resources to codify lessons that could help the global community move from pilot projects towards scaling tech hubs into larger support programs.

To address the knowledge gaps and learn for our own future programming, we took a focused effort to identify the lessons from our global mLab and mHub pilot program, which covered a dozen tech hub initiatives since 2010, covering Africa, Asia, and ECA (Europe and Central Asia).

One of the outcomes of the evaluation efforts is the report ‘The Business Models of mLabs and mHubs— An Evaluation of infoDev’s Mobile Innovation Support Pilots’. We used case studies of mLab and mHub business models (illustrated through the Business Model Canvas), a comparative results mapping, and inputs from over 200 stakeholders to develop a detailed and in-depth analysis that our stakeholders can benefit from.

#Housing4All

Simon Walley's picture

The Global population growth numbers forecast for the coming years can be extremely daunting, with 2 billion more people on our planet by 2050. When one considers that each of these global citizens will require shelter, health care, education, sanitation, transport, the numbers become even more formidable. Looking at housing needs alone, for the period 2015-2020, global population will grow by 350 million people, amounting to around 70 million new households each requiring a home. Breaking down the numbers annually means 14 million new houses. Based on a conservative estimate of $30k per unit, the total investment needed per annum over coming years is $420 billion. This is a large number but only around 0.6 per cent of global GDP . There are additional costs naturally associated with getting infrastructure and services to new houses, such as roads, water, and sanitation. A recent McKinsey study estimates that in 16 large emerging markets alone there is a $600-700 billion market for affordable housing. Nevertheless, with the right systems in place this level of new investment should be feasible. 



So why do we still have market failures in the housing sector which are in plain sight of many emerging market cities in the form of slum housing? Where can the money come from for housing investment? How will it reach the population which is going to need it the most in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, which will see the most rapid population growth and urbanization?

A New 'How-To' Guide for Creating Angel Investor Groups for Emerging and Frontier Markets

Maja Andjelkovic's picture

“Every business needs an angel.”

This was the advice given by John May, Chair-Emeritus of the Angel Capital Association and Co-Chairman of the World Business Angel Association, to 20 of the best African and Caribbean mobile software entrepreneurs from infoDev’s network of mLabs, mHubs and partner incubators.

Last November, this lucky group gathered at infoDev’s Mobile Startup Camp to learn, refine their product strategies, and hone their pitches to angel investors. They received one-on-one mentorship from John and a team of other experts on raising early stage financing from angels.

However, many more talented entrepreneurs did not have this unique chance. In addition, many high net worth individuals who are curious about investing in startups in their communities or in their countries of origin, simply don’t know where to start when it comes to angel investing. “Angels” play a significant role in helping new businesses get off the ground. Research in the U.S. indicates that start-ups funded by angel investors provided about 274,800 new jobs in 2012, or about 4.1 jobs per investment.
 
The number of business registrations is often used to gauge startup activity in a country. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and North Africa, new businesses are registered at lower rates per capita than in higher-income countries. One of the reasons for this is the lack of early-stage financing coupled with mentoring, such as that provided by angels. If successful entrepreneurs and wealthy individuals could help startups bridge the early-stage financing gap in these markets, new, innovation-driven firms could create millions of high-value jobs each year and help improve industry competitiveness.

Download the guidebook at: http://bit.ly/angelgrp

What Can Countries Do to Unlock Private Forest Investment?

Tuukka Castren's picture

Sustainable forest management needs between US$70 billion and US$160 billion each year to be implemented properly, but official development assistance to forestry only covers about 1 percent of the estimated total financing need.
 
Clearly, those numbers don’t work for forests.
 
The private sector has a role to play in filling the financing gap. And it is stepping in to fill that need – especially in countries where there is considerable private forest investment. But available data points to an uneven distribution of private forest investment across regions and countries.

Drifting Toward Plutocracy: Inexorable Concentration of Capital Undermines the Drive for 'Shared Prosperity'

Christopher Colford's picture

Like seismic waves rippling outward after a tectonic shift, reverberations are roiling the economic-policy landscape after the U.S. launch of the groundbreaking new analysis by Thomas Piketty, the scholar from the Paris School of Economics whose landmark tome – “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” – has newly jolted the economics profession.

Any Washingtonian or World Bank Group staffer who somehow missed the news of Piketty’s celebrated series of speeches and seminars last week – in Washington, New York and Boston – received an unmistakable signal this week about what an important intellectual breakthrough Piketty has achieved. President Jim Yong Kim on Tuesday cited Piketty while putting the issue of economic inequality at the top of his list of priorities during his review of the Spring Meetings of the Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Noting that he was already about halfway through reading Piketty’s “Capital,” President Kim sent a clear message that the skewed global distribution of wealth, as analyzed by Piketty and emphasized by many officials at the Bank and Fund's semiannual conference, should be top-of-mind for policy-watchers at the Bank and beyond – indeed, at every institution that hopes to promote shared prosperity.

Piketty’s scholarship is now receiving widespread acclaim as a landmark in economic analysis, and is being recognized both for its “exhaustive fact-based research” and its sweeping historical perspective. More of a patient dissection of hard data than a political roadmap, Piketty’s book has quickly become the subject of multiple praiseworthy reviews, notably in the New York Times and the Financial Times. One usually level-headed Bloomberg View analyst, recoiling from the “rapturous reception” accorded to the book, may have gone slightly overboard this week in asserting that Piketty's insights had been greeted by American liberals with “erotic intensity.”

Predictably, Piketty's book has also quickly become the target – “Piketty Revives [Karl] Marx,” blared a Wall Street Journal headline; “Marx Rises Again,” warned the New York Times’ lonely conservative scold – of the whack-a-mole ideological purists in laissez-faire Op-Ed columns, who forever seem tempted to equate modern-day liberalism with long-gone Leninism. Eager to publish denunciations of any idea, however modest, that might justify (heaven forfend) tax increases on stratospheric income-earners and the top-fraction-of-the-One Percent, the free-market fundamentalists on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board – unabashed cheerleaders for plutocracy – have opened up one of their trademark barrages via their Op-Ed columns (“This book is less a work of economic analysis than a bizarre ideological screed”; “The professor ought to read ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘Darkness at Noon’ ”). The Journal's jihad clearly aims to demean or discredit anyone who might flirt with such Piketty-style notions as restoring greater progressivity to the tax code. (Egad: Progressive taxation? Next stop: Bolshevism.)

Toward Shared Prosperity, With an Urgent New Focus on Overcoming Inequality

Christopher Colford's picture

The challenge of promoting shared prosperity was one of the unifying themes throughout last week’s Spring Meetings at the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund – the whirlwind of diplomacy and scholarship that sweeps through Washington every April and October. A remarkable new factor, however, energized this spring's event: In a vivid evolution of the policy debate, the seminars, forums and news-media coverage seemed focused, to a greater degree than ever, not just on the economic question of the creation of overall economic growth but on what has traditionally been seen as a social question: the distribution of wealth.

And in the wake of the Spring Meetings, Washington this week got a bracing reminder of how difficult it may be to build truly shared prosperity – not because our economic institutions lack the ability to achieve it, but because our political institutions may fail to summon the willpower to demand it.

A scholar whose work has taken the economics profession by storm, Thomas Piketty, captivated policy-watchers this week with the Washington launch of his landmark new work, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.” Hailed as “the most important economics book of the year, and maybe of the decade” by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman of the New York Times – and praised by Martin Wolf of the Financial Times as “an extraordinarily important” work “of vast historical scope, grounded in exhaustive fact-based research”– “Capital” offers vital new insights into how wealth and power are distributed in modern economies. “Piketty has transformed our economic discourse,” asserts Krugman. “We’ll never talk about wealth and inequality the same way we used to.”



Piketty’s account of “inexorably rising inequality,” according to New York Times columnist Eduardo Porter, challenges many of the economics profession’s “core beliefs about the organization of market economies” – including “the belief that inequality will eventually stabilize and subside on its own, a long-held tenet of free-market capitalism.” Instead, “the economic forces concentrating more and more wealth into the hands of the fortunate few are almost sure to prevail for a very long time.”

What would our world look like, if women and men had the same opportunities?

Sarah Iqbal's picture



Imagine . . . .
 
Imagine a world where everyone could achieve his or her full economic potential.

Now look at the world around you. Half the population — women — are prevented from doing so simply because of their gender. Government policies limit women’s participation in the economy through gender-differentiated laws, unequal regulations and a business environment that does not adequately support the businesses women are concentrated in — smaller, informal and more likely to be home-based.
 
A recent study found that removing gender gaps in the labor market would increase GDP by 27 percent in the Middle East and North Africa, by 23 percent in South Asia, and by around 15 percent in the rest of the world. But where do these gender gaps come from, and how best to remove them? One way is to identify the policies, laws and institutions that constrain women and to work with governments to reform them.
 
The World Bank Group’s Women, Business and the Law  dataset fills a vital data gap by pinpointing where laws and regulations treat men and women differently and by highlighting opportunities for reform.

More efficient ways to transfer remittances are emerging. Are migrants and their families ready to benefit from them?

Massimo Cirasino's picture

The price of sending international remittances has reached a new record low in the first quarter of 2014. The global average cost of sending money across borders was recorded at 8.36 percent. This figure is used as a reference point for measuring progress toward achieving the so-called “5x5” objective – a goal endorsed by the G8 and G20 countries – to reduce the cost of sending remittances by five percentage points, to 5 percent, by the end of 2014.

Most indexes of international remittance costs – published by the World Bank in the new, ninth issue of the Remittance Prices Worldwide report, which was released on March 31 – indicate good progress in the market for remittances.

The global average cost is significantly lower when weighted by the volume of money that flows in each of the report’s country-to-country pairs. The weighted average cost is now down to 5.91 percent, following a further decline in the last quarter. For the first time, the weighted average has fallen below 6 percent.

Nearly one-third of the remittance-sending countries included in Remittance Prices Worldwide have now achieved a reduction of at least 3 percentage points. Those countries include such major sources of remittances as Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan. This is also the case for 39 out of 89 of the remittance-receiving countries.

Have 'Special Economic Zones' Entered the 21st Century Yet? A Tale of Two Cities

Martin Norman's picture

At the World Free Zone Convention in Izmir, Turkey, which I attended in December, an important question was asked:  Have "Special Economic Zones" entered the 21st Century?  Evidence shows that, in many ways, they have – but in many instances we are still seeing across the globe the same isolated economic enclaves with few linkages to the local market and little economy-wide impact.

More than ever, special economic zones (SEZs) are on the defensive, despite the fact that the more than 3,500 SEZs worldwide have provided employment for more than 60 million people.

I believe that two zones, in particular, can shed light on the factors of success and failure in SEZs today:  Shenzhen, China, which is almost universally considered to be a success story, and the Calabar Free Trade Zone in Nigeria, which has failed to live up to its original projections. 
 

Knowledge-Sharing Boosts Development Know-How, as Practitioners and Policymakers Meet in Mombasa

Qursum Qasim's picture

Karibu Mombasa!

With those words, the World Bank Group’s network on Financial and Private Sector Development (FPD) this week kicked off a major knowledge and learning conference on development in Mombasa, Kenya. More than 250 participants – private-sector innovators, government policymakers and development practitioners from throughout the Africa region as well as from the Bank Group’s headquarters in Washington – came together to share ideas about cutting-edge innovations in delivering services; to brainstorm with colleagues on development strategy for Africa; and to consider new tactics to help meet the practical, everyday needs of Africans.

Delivering strong value for the Bank Group’s client countries was the theme of Klaus Tilmes, the network’s Acting Vice President, as the group envisioned the impending FPD transition into two new Global Practices: Trade & Competitiveness and Finance & Markets. Inclusive growth and inclusive finance – which are vital elements in achieving the Bank Group’s mission of eliminating extreme poverty and building shared prosperity – are the twin and complementary themes through which the two new practices will aim to help their clients meet the development challenge.

Promoting inclusive growth and creating jobs – as engines of growth, as key areas of cooperation between the public and private sectors, and as the backbone of the Bank Group’s approach to promoting a world free of poverty – was the conference’s first-day theme. In this context, youth and female unemployment are priority issues for Kenya and for other African countries – from the perspective of equity, certainly, but also from the perspective of social cohesion.

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