Taking inspiration from the United States of America’s Silicon Valley which accommodates hundreds of start-ups and global technology companies, including Google, Apple and Facebook, Silicon Accra will be home to research institutions, large companies and start-ups to provide solutions to some of Africa’s technological headaches.
The first phase of the project, which consists of 20,000 offices to serve as a co-working space, 220-unit residential apartments and $5 million as seed money for investment for Ghanaian and African technology start-ups, will be ready in two years.
The second-phase of the project will allow what its proponents describe as ‘strategic partners’ to invest in infrastructure on a 15-acre land that will be leased to them for 49 years and at no cost.
Strategic stakeholders for the project, whose developers hope to become the ecosystem for technology start-ups and research in Africa, include the Twelve Springs Investment Group, Global Silicon Valley (GSV) Labs, Royal HaskoningDHV, Mendanha and Sousa Construction and Saint Gobain.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting in Accra yesterday, the Chief Executive Officer of Silicon Accra, Mr David Osei, said work had already started on the project with the clearing and the fencing of the land.
He said the company would invest $10 million in developing the core infrastructure, including access roads, sustainable energy (electricity and solar energy), water and fibre-optic lines for fast Internet service.
Dealing with challenges
He said the project was important to deal with key challenges, including sustainable energy, food security and health care, that faced Ghana and other African countries.
“All these areas are in need of radical innovation to take us to the next level. This is not just an investment in a company which will bring returns but investment in the future of Ghana and Africa at large.
“It is an investment to create the next technologies that would enable Ghana to be food sufficient, create solutions for health care not just for Ghana but globally,” he said.
“We want to create a platform that is sustainable for young start-ups,” he stated.
He said although the project was targeted at all sectors of the economy, its main focus was financial innovation, health care, education and agribusiness.
“We hope to have 20,000 people working and studying at the same time,” he said.
Similar start-up hubs are in Egypt, South Africa and Kenya.
Coming on the heels of the Hope City Project launched in 2013 as a collaboration between Rlg and Microsoft and which was expected to provide work for more than 50,000 people and host 25,000 inhabitants but never took off, Mr Osei said the Silicon Accra concept was totally different.
“We are not bearing the total cost that will bring up the city. We are open to companies that will bring up their designs; we vet them to suit our plan and they build,” he said.
Mr Desi Lopez Fafie, a member of the Advisory Board of Silicon Accra, observed that the project was not just an opportunity for the country’s growth but also to create employment opportunities for young talents.
To keep the government, academia and research institutions in the loop, a task force has been established.
Funding Africa’s start-ups
Although the start-up front in Ghana continues to grow, funding remains a major constraint.
However, in other parts of the continent, start-ups are receiving a shot in the arm from venture capitals and other investors.
According to a Forbes February 2016 report, 125 African technology start-ups attracted $185-million in funding in 2015.
It showed there was significant funding in solar, financial technology (fintech) and e-commerce projects.
Despite the global perception that Kenya is the most innovative country, the report indicated that South Africa attracted the largest amount of funding ($54.5 million) and was the most favoured destination (36 per cent).