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Tech Hub Cities (that are not Silicone Valley)

Given its justifiably earned reputation, Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area is regarded as the best place to base a tech start-up.

High-profile technology companies like Apple, Alphabet, Cisco, Intel, Facebook and Netflix are all are headquartered here and there’s seemingly endless access to expertise and collaboration prospect.

 

There are, however, some tech hubs emerging to give the Valley some competition…

 

SHENZHEN  China
Regarded as China’s Silicon Valley, Shenzhen has been transformed to a buzzing metropolis with an estimated population of over 12 million, since it was chosen as the country’s first “special economic zone” back in 1980, when it was home to around 300 000 people.

Today some 90% of the world’s electronics are manufactured in Shenzhen’ many thousands of factories, housing complete ecosystems for every stage of production. They build touchscreens, motherboards, cameras, etc, and most notably, the city is home to companies like Huawei, Tencent, and ZTE.

 

Apple manufacturer Foxconn, Kindle, Nintendo, Xiaomi and PlayStation all have factories here and prominent start-ups include DJI, OnePlus, and MakeBlock. To sum up Shenzhen, “Anything you have to do in days or weeks elsewhere,” says Steven Yang, CEO of battery technology company, Anker Innovations, “can be done here in hours.”

 

BENGALURU  India

Formerly known as Bangalore – and once a popular destination for retirees – the city has reinvented itself as “The Silicon Valley of India” and is home to India’s IT industry. A swift change over the last decade has seen it become India’s fourth biggest city in India with over 12 million people.

In 2017, the World Economic Forum named Bengaluru the most dynamic city in the world and it’s now home to around 40% of India’s IT sector and, according to the BBC, by 2020 it will be home to the single largest IT hub in the world with two million IT professionals, six million indirect jobs, and $80bn in IT exports.

In August 2018, Walmart paid $16-billion for a controlling stake in India’s largest e-commerce site Flipkart, while tech giants Apple, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Samsung and Amazon all have offices here.

 

KIGALI Rwanda

Rwanda may not yet stand out as one of Africa’s top technology hubs, but a multi-billion-dollar project to be financed by the Rwandan government and Africa50 will see Kigali Innovation City (KIC) will change all of that. To be built in the capital city as part of the government of Rwanda’s Vision 2020 development program, and dubbed “Africa’s Silicon Valley”, KIC is expected to create over 50 000 jobs annually with universities, biotech firms, technology companies and commercial centres.

 

Private investors and government have already set up a $100 million venture fund to help turn at least ten ICT start-ups into corporations worth $50 million. Despite being small nation of only 12-million people, Rwanda is well-equipped with telecoms infrastructure like mobile coverage and fibre optic cables; it is said that Rwanda is more likely to have cell phone signal than working electricity. China’s Alibaba Group launched a Electronic World Trade Program (eWTP) with the Rwandan government to connect SMEs with the Chinese market … an African first.

 

SINGAPORE   Singapore

From fishing village to established financial hub to thriving tech scene, Singapore is increasingly being used by technology companies wanting a springboard into the Asian market. With simple registration processes, protection foe minority investors, a minimum capital requirement lowered to $50 000, the World Bank has ranked the country at number two amongst 190 economies for “ease of doing business’”.

Singapore’s Economic Development Board and Info-communications Media Development Authority actively supports start-ups by providing them with resources to help with business goals. The country’s double tax avoidance laws, free trade agreements, and strict intellectual property laws further encourage start-ups to base themselves here. There’s no shortage of venture capitalists on this tiny island either, with the possibility of networking with knowledgeable immigrants who’ve relocated to Singapore adding to its appeal.

 

SÃO PAULO Brazil

As the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere, São Paulo is known for its traffic, rundown city centre, smog and a large gap between the rich and poor. It is also home over 2 700 tech start-ups, and is regarded as the largest and most mature start-up ecosystem on the continent.

The city has a nurturing scheme called “SP Stars” that selects a group of technology-based start-ups to participate in a mentoring program, providing access to major international tech companies like LinkedIn, Google and Cabify.

 

The city is also known for its co-working spaces and networking events that have been likened to speed dating for start-ups with representatives from 500 Startups, IBM, Techstars, and Google in attendance. One of the country’s most popular start-ups is the award-winning Easy Taxi, which connects locals with efficient and safe public transport – it now operates in 30 countries and over 420 cities around the world.

 

NAIROBI Kenya

Known as “Silicon Savannah”, Kenya’s tech hub is one of the more established start-up ecosystems on the continent. Back in 2007, its biggest success came in the form of M-Pesa, a mobile-based money-transfer and micro-financing service. Today, its $1bn tech hub is home to more than 200 start-ups that includes well-established companies like Intel, IMB and Microsoft, according to Wired.

Nairobi’s numerous tech hubs offer affordable co-working spaces that with fast internet and start-ups are spoilt for choice with many investors, conferences, incubators and accelerators to choose from. Alibaba’s Jack Ma has offered $10 million in funding to 100 African entrepreneurs over the next decade as part of the Africa Netpreneur Prize to be run by Nailab in Nairobi. As part of Kenya Vision 2030, the government is also building a large technology hub called Konza Technology City outside Nairobi, with an estimated cost of $14.5bn.

 

WORDS Nafisa Akabor

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