Somalia is opening its first tech hub in Mogadishu, iRise, in what is another positive sign of the nation’s future amid the many challenges that remain.
iRise, which will officially open this month, is a community-based innovation hub for Somali entrepreneurs, innovators, developers and investors to share ideas, connect and collaborate.
It is an Innovation Hub that boasts a co-working space with 24-hour WiFi access and a reliable power source, along with copiers and other office equipment services needed for professionals to advance their businesses. It serves as an incubator with training for Somali tech entrepreneurs and support for startups, with an emphasis on the agricultural sector in the Horn of Africa nation.
It will also offer incubation and acceleration services, supporting new startups and entrepreneurs with trainings to help unleash their potential and launch business ideas into the market. Its incubation services focus primarily on sectors that fuels Somalia’s economic development, such as agricultural, fishery, education and ICT technology.
The vision for the iRise hub in Mogadishu began with the popular #SomaliaRising hashtag. Its founders, led by Abdihakim Ainte, decided to capitalize on the momentum among Somali youth seeking to build a secure and tech-savvy future. They envision the space as a way to build a culture of innovation, an ecosystem for tech development and a way for young Somalis to “reclaim their own narrative.”
A major part of iRise’s focus will be on research, with the hub to offer various consultancy services that include improving the quality of the data system through technology to help government, donors and aid agencies take more informed decisions.
Co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Awil Osman told Disrupt Africa iRise’s goal was to develop the country’s tech sector. “Our mission is to nurture and bring together the tech talent in Mogadishu and inspire them to create local solutions for local problems. On the other hand, we will also increase the competence of the local workforce by training and offering alternative solutions,” he said.
Somalia’s dairy industry will be one of the priorities as iRise hosts its first Innovation Camp in Mogadishu. The livestock sector is the largest contributor to Somali livelihoods with about two-thirds of the population engaged with it in some way, and it accounts for about 80 percent of exports, the iRise organizers say.
The Innovation Camp – planned in partnership with the United Nations Development Program – will focus on solving problems to make the sector more productive in order to meet demand. These include dealing with drought, improving storage and infrastructure, and issues like bottling safety.
iRise might be Somalia’s first tech hub, but the country does already have an accelerator investing in local tech startups.
The 12-week accelerator is an initiative of Innovate Ventures in partnership with the Work in Progress! Alliance and VC4Africa, and provides startups with intensive training and mentoring on business and operational skills, access to leading telecoms and banks, the chance to pitch in front of local and international investors, and the possibility of equity funding.