At least that seems to be the trend. An enterprise incubator has just appeared in Abuja, Nigeria: Enspire Incubation Program, piloted in August of 2009 ‘to provide technology innovators with resources to develop and grow their ideas, products or services, and fulfil their creations in the local market.’ This is a part of the soon to be completed Abuja Technology Village, spearheaded by the Nigerian government. Taking a different approach, a smaller and slightly more hip venue is being designed right now in Kenya, the iHub: ‘Nairobi’s Innovation Hub for the technology community. . .an open space for the technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in the area.’
And why not? Singapore’s epic climb from a third to first world country in the latter half of the 2oth century was, in part, spurred by the efforts of Singapore’s Economic Development Board (www.edb.gov.sg) to identify and build strategic industry sectors. An important piece of this was setting aside industrial parks and providing incentives for foreign investors to set up shop. Eventually, as they shifted their focus onto more knowledge-intensive activities (such as R&D, engineering design and computer software services), the government built research parks.
What about the role of local enterprise? In 1986 the EDB established the Small Enterprise Bureau. Ten years prior to this the Small Industry Finance Scheme provided small loans (here we’re talking around $250,000) to local small to medium-scale enterprises.
The EDB was able to create an innovative and business-friendly environment that attracted foreign direct investment. They transitioned from a focus on manufacturing to a knowledge economy, where a highly educated population became their biggest asset – a market incentive for high quality education.
Today, Singapore’s economy is thriving and it’s ranked #1 in the world in ease of doing business in the World Bank’s 2010 Doing Business Report. We can learn a lot from the steps that Singapore took to achieve real and lasting economic growth. Of course, the picture is not all rosy. This was done under a largely autocratic government and one wonders if such progressive action could have been carried out within a democracy.
The question now is: results. Will Kenya and Nigeria be able to catapult themselves into the IT sector? Will these spaces attract the types of dynamic communities that create real growth?
Only time will tell, but they are certainly off to a promising start!