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Arusha Is Rising: The Arusha Innovation Ecosystem

Source: https://landlopers.com/2017/02/22/arusha

There is a new innovation hotspot rising in Tanzania; Arusha. Often referred to as the Geneva of Africa, innovation and entrepreneurship is flourishing across the East African Community (EAC) capital.

The Evidence

Arusha is now home to several innovations that are increasing access to services and improving products with the potential to transform industries. The Nanofilter developed by Dr. Hilonga is one example offering a low-cost water purification system. It is distributed through a network of water stations and provides safe drinking water, reaching rural households. The FinTech wave has also swept through Arusha with innovators like Reginald Runyoro developing Dundiza; A free, cloud-based, automated solution for youth and women to save and manage their money. The diversity of innovations is well exemplified by Imara Tech’s locally made mechanised thresher (MCT) which allows small-scale farmers to thresh different crops up to 90 times faster than with manual methods. The Co-Founders Elliot Avila, Alfred Chengula and Adriana Garties also developed a unique business model by allowing a network of entrepreneurs to provide the MCT as a service to farmers, increasing affordability and adoption of the solution.

Arusha’s rise in innovation is further evidenced by the growing support ecosystem. There are now more than 10 organisations that focus on building capacity for entrepreneurs in one way or another. One form that these organisations take is of hubs that offer co-working space and capacity building for early stage entrepreneurs. Obuntu Hub is one such example by providing co-working space, practical skills training (leveraging digital principles) and a supportive community for young entrepreneurs. Innovative, Technology and Energy Centre (ITEC) is another example which empowers innovations from the Nelson Mandela Institute of Science and Technology (NM-IST) with a makerspace and incubator. Whitespace Africa supports startups and professionals across Arusha whilst IAA Startup Business Centre targets student entrepreneurs from the Institute of Accountancy Arusha (IAA). Chanya Change aims to develop skills for youth and in particular women.

Other players in the ecosystem work with post-revenue enterprises to scale including Anza’s acceleration programme and growth fund for social entrepreneurs. Building Business Africa seeks to help companies scale across Africa while Kakute provides technology development and commercialisation services for different stakeholders. As a makerspace, Twende Social Innovation Centre empowers innovators to develop physical solutions using local technologies to solve community problems. Shamba Box focuses on training and providing business services for agribusiness entrepreneurs while Rikolto builds capacity for young entrepreneurs working with small-scale farmers.

There is increasing diversity in the ecosystem. CENIT@EA, powered by GIZ, focuses on skilling for digital transformation e.g. offering a fully funded Masters on Embedded and Mobile Systems at NM-IST . E3Empower runs programmes on STEM education, energy and entrepreneurship for students and teachers. Jobortunity also helps cover the skills gap by training youth from disadvantaged backgrounds with 21st century skills, helping enterprises source professional talent while YEP Tanzania trains young entrepreneurs. Okoa Mtaa Foundation’s has the mission of innovating through art in order to raise awareness and generate solutions to problems in the community.

The snapshot below summaries the key identified actors of the Arusha Innovation Ecosystem. Approximately 40% of these organisations are less than 3 years and less than 20% of the ecosystem players provide direct funding for entrepreneurs.

If you are an ecosystem player missing from this Snapshot then please email us on: hello@obuntuhub.co.tz

As a nascent ecosystem, the Arusha ecosystem has the opportunity to learn from more developed ecosystems including Silicon Dar in Dar es Salaam and internationally. As the ecosystem is growing quickly, it is now a strategic time to develop collaborations and deliberately create a pipeline of support along an entrepreneur’s journey.

The Arushan Opportunity

Arusha’s location, resources and history make a canvas for unique opportunities that could differentiate it and make it complement innovations across the rest of Tanzania.

Arusha is the gateway to some of the world's most prized tourist attractions including the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater or Mt. Kilimanjaro. It is thus considered as Tanzania’s tourist capital, the heartbeat of the tourism industry. The tourism industry has become the country’s top foreign currency earner and generates nearly 20% of the country’s GDP. This presents a large market to serve of hotels, tour operators and local communities with innovations to increase value, efficiency or sustainability.

Located in Northern Tanzania, Arusha offers cool climate, good rain supply and fertile lands. In addition it is in close proximity to big markets such as Nairobi which is only five hours away by road. These are inputs that agripreneurs could take advantage of to drive innovations across production, distribution and storage. Different stakeholders have started working together to unleash the city’s agriculture production notably through the Arusha Food Smart Cities Initiative.

Arusha has also established itself as a diplomatic haven exemplified by the hosting of United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. This positioning was crowned with the designation of Arusha as the capital city of the 6-member East African Community and host city of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. This provides a rich foundation for entrepreneurs interested in disrupting civic engagement or international trade.

It Takes An Ecosystem

It takes a village to raise a child, it takes an ecosystem to raise an entrepreneur. At Obuntu Hub this is our fundamental belief and is reflected in the meaning of our name: Collective progress. Let’s raise the entrepreneurs together!

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