Enter your email address below and subscribe to our newsletter

Exclusive: Inside Botswana’s $60 Million Legendary Hub Silicon Valley in Africa 

By Oluchukwu Ikemefuna

Share your love

The $60 million Icon Building, which is mostly responsible for the state-run Botswana Innovation Hub’s scientific and technology park, was designed by the New York-based architecture company SHoP. 

It is one of the most costly government-funded buildings constructed since Botswana gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1966. It’s difficult to see when flying into Gaborone, the capital city. 

According to SHoP, the building has what is reportedly the largest green roof in the area, but the vegetation is often more earthy in tone in this semi-arid climate. 

The low-slung, layered structure appears only at surface level, rising out of the earth like something straight out of a Frank Herbert science fiction book.

Let’s go deeply into Botswana’s $60 million legendary hub, the Silicon Valley in Africa. 

Key insights from Botswana’s Legendary Hub, Africa’s Silicon Valley

Formerly renowned mostly for its abundant wildlife and mineral riches, Botswana is quickly being recognized as a leader in technology innovation on the African continent. Recent measures demonstrate the nation’s resolve to shift from an economy dependent on minerals to one centered on information.

Botswana is transforming its economy from one centered on minerals to one centered on knowledge, thanks to the establishment of a new digital park that seeks to foster innovation in technology while providing a supportive community for businesses. Below are the key insights from Botswana’s legendary hub:

  • The goal of Botswana’s ecosystem is to unite innovators from around Africa and the world to work together on innovative goods and services.
  • The purpose of the icon building in Botswana is to foster innovation and cooperation between African entrepreneurs and well-established ICT corporations. 
  • With the aid of innovation and technology, Botswana is transitioning from a mineral-driven economy to a knowledge-based economy, which can unleash the potential of its people and broaden its economic base. 
  • In addition to being a place for leisure, the amenity garden can be used for networking and teamwork to generate creative ideas. 
  • International companies wishing to enter the African market find Botswana to be a compelling destination due to its special economic zone and reasonably priced company registration fees.

Read also: Timbuktoo in a Move to Assist African Startups

Is Botswana Silicon Valley a High-Tech Hub?

The Design

Situated on a 57-hectare plot of barren veldt in Gaborone’s capital city, the Botswana Innovation Hub houses start-ups, multinational enterprises, research, and health organisations under one enormous green roof that stretches long and low. 

Across 270,000 square feet, the design consists of a clutch of slender volumes that resemble sand dunes, connected by bridges to form an intimate community. 

A range of ecological technologies, from rainwater collectors to solar cells, will enable the building to obtain LEED certification, a first in Botswana. This seductive content draws outsiders to what is essentially the middle of corporate nowhere.

It is the world’s largest producer of gem-quality diamonds, thanks to remarkably generous diamond mines and, to a lesser extent, cattle. 

However, its worst drawback is also its greatest strength. As early as 2030, it is anticipated that the deposits will run out, which has government officials scratching their heads about how to diversify. 

According to William Sharples, principal of SHoP, “the objective was to create an incubator to invite new startups and other companies into Botswana and get the country into another economic line besides just diamonds.”

The Green Architecture 

In a region of the world where green architecture is nonexistent, the building introduces it. By utilizing both active and passive energy-saving strategies, SHoP’s design reduces the building’s carbon footprint by 50% when compared to the ASHRAE national standard for the United States. 

For example, the roof uses big overhangs and photovoltaics to passively shield the building’s interior from severe sun heat. “In Botswana, they have never constructed a sustainable building. It is entirely novel, according to Sharples. “We’re introducing new technology and demonstrating how we manage the design process with digital technology.” To put it succinctly, the Innovation Hub is viewed as an innovation model by SHoP.

Botswana’s Economy Shift from Minerals to Tech Innovation

From being among the poorest countries in Africa to having one of the fastest-growing economies globally, Botswana has come a long way since attaining independence in 1966. 

Based on official World Bank figures, Botswana’s GDP (gross domestic product) was valued at 20.35 billion US dollars in 2022.

And its GDP is still expanding, with an amazing 5.6% gain in the second quarter of 2022 compared to a significant 37.9% increase in the same quarter the previous year.

Botswana is well aware of the need for economic diversification as the world economy changes and the demand for commodities and minerals fluctuates.

The country, which has historically relied on its abundant diamond reserves, is now looking ahead and hoping to shift its economic base from minerals to the rapidly expanding field of technological innovation.

This change is clearly motivated by the desire to guarantee sustainable economic growth and lessen reliance on limited resources. 

Botswana wants to establish itself as a leader in the African tech scene by leveraging the boundless potential of the digital age through investments in innovation and technology.

Botswana Digital Innovation Hub as a catalyst for tech innovation

The massive Botswana Digital and Innovation Hub (BDIH), which occupies a gigantic 57-hectare area, is a testament to the country’s ambitious future ambitions. The hub, which has enough room to house a wide range of businesses, represents Botswana’s ambition to become a tech giant on par with Silicon Valley and is more than just an infrastructure investment.

The BDIH’s architecture combines contemporary style with cultural allusions. The architecture of the building is modelled after the complex network of rivers seen in Botswana. 

Furthermore, the building’s rooftop, which was inspired by the expansive dunes of the Kalahari Desert, acts as a moving reminder of the rich history and scenery of the country. The hub is not only a hub for creativity but also a celebration of Botswana’s character, with each brick, curve, and design detail echoing the soul of the nation.

Regarding the startups that the hub hopes to draw, it has a wide-ranging and inclusive focus. The BDIH is positioned to draw innovators from a variety of industries, including more traditional sectors like software development, e-commerce, and digital marketing, as well as up-and-coming tech areas like blockchain, artificial intelligence, and green technology. 

Its cutting-edge amenities, together with its ideal location and layout, make it a desirable option for entrepreneurs operating both domestically and abroad.

Checkout: Internet Access in Togo to be Boosted by Togocom and IFC

The Impact on Tech Startups 

Ditec is a prominent name that is now creating waves at the hub. It is a local business that specialises in designing and producing consumer electronics at a much reduced cost. 

Ditec wants to become the top IT brand in Botswana and possibly even make inroads into other countries. Their participation demonstrates the hub’s dedication to developing local talent and giving them the tools and surroundings they need to succeed both locally and internationally.

The country’s tech-driven vision is centered around the Innovation Bridge Portal. The site, an effort of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), acts as a digital hub for aspiring Southern African entrepreneurs.

The Innovation Bridge Portal is a catalyst for change, providing a multitude of services ranging from networking and mentorship possibilities to possible funding sources. It is more than just a digital platform. 

The portal’s operation, in association with the World Bank and other partners, is evidence of Botswana’s commitment to promoting innovation, teamwork, and economic expansion in the digital age.

The world is paying close attention as Botswana moves closer to becoming a global center for technology. The country is well on its way to becoming the model for technological and economic success in Africa because of programmes like the BDIH and a booming economy.

The Challenges That Could be Faced by the Botswana Legendary Hub

The advantages of tech hubs are undeniable, but creating one can be challenging. There are three primary obstacles they must overcome. 

1. Funding

The money needed to maintain hub operations is not easily accessible. Africa’s capital markets mostly serve huge companies with impeccable credit ratings. Banks do not appear to find investments in hubs—the locations of small businesses, do-it-yourself projects, and start-ups—to be a compelling market offer. 

In essence, stronger competitors and more established companies are given preferential treatment in the fierce rivalry for credit in African nations. Tech centres are not given priority by African governments, which are beset with a plethora of developmental issues and plagued by policy pathologies.

2. Attracting Users

The number of users and collaborators a hub has determines how effective it is. The more users a hub has, the more networking and learning opportunities it can provide. In a similar vein, a hub’s chances of drawing in outside financing improve with size.

Regretfully, ICT education in African nations has not yet advanced to the point where a sufficient number of enthusiasts are motivated by personal curiosity to use hubs to refine their creative ideas.

3. Struggle for External Collaborators

As with the previous point, hubs find it difficult to establish connections with outside partners and other resource people. 

As a result, it becomes difficult for them to build the connections that will enable consumers to access outside resources, knowledge, and skills, which limits their capacity to produce socioeconomic value. 

Establishing connections with government organisations provides institutional support for the commercialization of tech hub innovations. Hub-government interactions, however, seem to be restricted. 

Furthermore, Africa’s tech hubs are not yet competitive or fully integrated into the global tech scene.

Four Things to Expect in African Tech’s Future 

1. State ICT Competition: 

As a result of Kenya’s example, governments in Africa are under increasing pressure to develop their ICT policies and infrastructure. Aware of Silicon Savannah’s success, nations like Ghana, Nigeria, and Rwanda are already feeling the pressure.

2. Tech-disrupting Development:

Africa will keep using IT to address persistent socio-economic issues. Aid agencies are already redirecting money meant for non-governmental organizations to software companies in Africa with a social venture focus. From a corporate perspective, many of “Africa’s grand challenges”—many of which have been assigned to the development sector—are being solved by IBM’s Lucy Project. Solving the continent’s enduring issues will progressively turn into a business opportunity for technology.

3. Globally Applicable African Tech Solutions:

M-PESA is now being used as a case study for digital payments worldwide. Ushahidi was employed in US political campaigns during the most recent presidential election. Internet dead zones in Wisconsin are being equipped with Africa’s solar-powered BRCK wifi equipment. 

Additionally, Netflix is considering using the video-on-demand platform iROKO Partners, which was developed to address the issues of monetization and distribution for Nigerian films, to offer American digital goods for sale in Africa. 

The majority of SSA’s technological applications are being developed as answers to regional issues, but this is and will continue to present unanticipated potential for other markets.

4. SSA’s First Exits, IPOs, and Tech Moguls:

It won’t be long until one of the continent’s commercially focused firms expands a revenue-generating platform to a sizable user base, resulting in the first significant acquisition, initial public offering, and Mark Zuckerberg-style sensation.

Read also: Big Story: AltSchool Africa Launches its Second-Biggest Market in Kenya

Other Notable Tech Hubs in Africa

It is important to remember that Africa is the second-largest mobile phone market in the world, behind Asia. Given that technological advancements foster economic autonomy, Africans are beginning to show a rising preference for cellphones with web capabilities. Tech centres have been established all throughout Africa as a result of the growing internet trend, giving individuals access to the internet and the means to implement their ideas.

Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi, sometimes referred to as the “Silicon Valley of Africa,” is renowned for its technological investments, making it one of the continent’s top digital hubs. The government of Nairobi, in partnership with one of the top communication providers in the nation, Safaricom, introduced a programme that allows individuals to enjoy free Wi-Fi in cabs, thereby improving the country’s overall internet access. Internet access has also paved the way for a large number of entrepreneurs, who are constantly generating new work prospects. The ICT (Information and Communication Technology) sector contributed 7% of Kenya’s GDP in 2016 as a result of this technological development.

Casablanca, Morocco

Casablanca was the first nation in North Africa to use the 3G network, having done so in 2006. Since then, Morocco has made a name for itself as a rapidly expanding hub for high technology, adding almost $500 million to the GDP of the nation. Morocco has established free Wi-Fi hotspots in all of its major cities, giving more than 20 million people access to the open internet. These public spaces, including train stations, hospitals, mosques, and universities, now have free Wi-Fi.

Dakar, Senegal

Senegal’s government and the nation’s top mobile provider, Tigo, partnered to introduce the Dakar Digital City project, which will install free Wi-Fi hotspots around the nation’s capital. The majority of Senegalese people—nearly 83 percent—own mobile phones, 40 percent of which are smartphones. 

The Senegalese government has begun investing in a digital city named the Diamniadio Technology Park, which will include a data and ICT centre, a broadband zone, and higher education centres, in order to meet the demands of the country’s expanding digitally connected population.

Johannesburg, South Africa

With Johannesburg at the forefront of the movement, South Africa has the most tech hubs on the African continent due to its highly developed telecommunications sector. 

With up to 1,000 free hotspots spread throughout the city, Johannesburg is steadily becoming a free Wi-Fi metropolis thanks to digital hubs like JoziHub. 

There are more than 21 million internet users in South Africa, and 40 percent of them access the internet via their phones. A higher rate of smartphone adoption may be indicated by the fact that about 24% of smartphone users download content from app stores. 

In addition, residents of the Braamfontein suburb now have free daily access to 300 MB of data for a single device thanks to the 2015 introduction of the Braamfontein Wireless Mesh project.

Lagos, Nigeria

Lagos, the capital of Western Africa and the home of more digital centres than any other city on the continent, has established itself as the economic centre of Africa. 

This is a result of Nigeria’s ongoing efforts to enhance the investment environment, which has elevated the nation to the forefront of Africa’s technological race. 

Lagos attracts investors hoping to profit from this growing technological cluster because it has over 90 million internet users. Lagos was chosen as a test site for IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge in 2012 due to the city’s high internet penetration rate.

Cairo, Egypt

With a population of over 90 million, 50% of whom are under 30, Egypt’s younger generation is more tech-adept than the one that came before it. Egypt is consequently becoming one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world, if not all of Africa. 

Cairo, the nation’s capital, is home to 2.3 million mobile phone users and more than 50% of internet users. Thus, it is expected that by 2025, its e-commerce sector will have a net worth of $2.7 billion, making it a lucrative investment hub for new-media companies, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs.

Kampala, Uganda

Kampala, the capital of Uganda, is dominated by cellphones in the middle of a nation where 19 million people use the internet. ICT, which is growing at a rate of 7.9 percent annually, is therefore a crucial component of the nation’s development. More than six tech incubators are located in Kampala, which is also Uganda’s hub for creative design. 

For example, in 2012, students at Makerere University developed an app called WinSenga that measures the heart rate of the fetus and does an ultrasound on women. Microsoft’s prestigious student technical innovation competition, the Imagine Cup, was won by this software.

Accra, Ghana

Ghana’s ICT industry is driven by startups based in Accra, such as MoTeCH and Nandi Mobile, which have won accolades for promoting cutting-edge applications and digital content. 

Ghana, which has more than 5 million internet users, is working to transform Accra into an ICT tech hub through Hope City, a vast area that houses housing complexes, IT universities, commercial offices, and recreational areas.

Kigali, Rwanda

It has not been in vain for Rwanda to attempt to transition from an agrarian to a knowledge-based economy. The government’s Vision 2020 project has brought about a digital revolution with the establishment of innovation centres such as Impact Hub in Kigali, The Office, and K-Lab. 

These hubs house a number of prosperous businesses and startups, in addition to training facilities where young people in the nation are taught how to code. Kigali is becoming the first capital city in East Africa with free Wi-Fi zones for its inhabitants, according to the Smart Kigali initiative, which aims to give internet access to the city’s expanding middle class.

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire 

With a recent count of 6 million, the number of internet users in Cote d’Ivoire has been steadily increasing. As a result, the nation’s ICT industry is booming thanks to the efforts of numerous Abidjan-based small and medium-sized startups. 

Additionally, Qelasy, the first educational tablet in Africa created by Ivorian businessman Thierry N’Doufou, is based in Cote d’Ivoire. Qelasy is not only helping the Ivorian education system close the digital divide, but it has also enhanced the curriculum with interactive exercises, animations, and noises in a digital format.

See Also: Everything You Need to Know About the New Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra in 2024

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Botswana’s new tech hub intended to achieve?

With the help of technological innovation, the new tech hub in Botswana hopes to strengthen the nation’s economy and offer a supportive environment for upstarts.

What served as the design inspiration for Botswana’s tech cluster building?

Silicon Valley and Botswana’s sand dunes served as inspiration for the architecture of the tech cluster building in Botswana.

In what ways does the government of Botswana assist startups?

The government helps entrepreneurs in Botswana by sponsoring the production of consumer electronics and offering free internet and facilities for the creation of physical prototypes.

Which goods does the company manufacture in Botswana?

The Botswana-based company produces laptops, phones, and robust, kid-friendly PCs with Android operating systems.

In what ways does Botswana hope to modernise its economy?

Through innovation and technology, Botswana hopes to change its mineral-based economy into a knowledge-based one.

South Africa: The next Silicon Valley

With a long history of innovation, South Africa is home to well-known technologies like the CAT scan and groundbreaking medical treatments like the first heart transplant. There are also indications that this country may become the next hub for innovation.

Cape Town is known as the “tech capital of Africa” for a number of reasons, including:

  • Tech start-ups: By the end of 2020, Cape Town’s tech sector employed over 40,000 workers across 550 enterprises.
  • Investments: In 2020, the biggest amount of money ever declared in South Africa went into tech start-ups in Cape Town, totaling $88 million (R1.2 billion) over 46 deals.
  • Venture capital firms: The most venture capital businesses are located in the Western Cape, which facilitates the funding of entrepreneurs.
  • Co-working places: There are over 30 co-working spaces in the Western Cape, the most in Africa. In Cape Town alone, there are 715 free WiFi hotspots.
  • Home to top-tier universities: According to the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings for 2021, Stellenbosch University is placed third overall, while the University of Cape Town continues to hold its position as the finest university in Africa. Many of the international students who come to study in Cape Town are drawn by the city’s burgeoning tech scene.
  • Ease of doing business: Cape Town was rated as the most business-friendly metropolitan municipality in the nation in the most recent World Bank research report on “Doing Business in South Africa.”
Share your love
Oluwatobi Olowe
Oluwatobi Olowe

Tobi Olowe has over 3 years of experience as a content writer specializing in Tech discoveries, site optimization, building content that rank well and boosting overall site performance.

Articles: 152

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below and subscribe to our newsletter

Stay informed and not overwhelmed, subscribe now!