Hubs and Incubators play a key role in supporting entrepreneurs and grass root initiatives. In this series, we shine a light on hubs and incubators around the world working with the International Trade Centre supporting young entrepreneurial talent.
Recently, we sat down to chat with the team at BongoHive, a technology and Innovation Hub in Lusaka, Zambia. Co-founder Simunza Muyangana and Marketing Manager Mareta Lindunda took time out of their busy schedules to chat with Ye! and explain how BongoHive is supporting young entrepreneurs in Lusaka and across Zambia to build stronger businesses.
Can you give us an introduction to BongoHive?
BongoHive started 9 years ago from a desire to fill the gap of available information for young developers. This includes teaching to code, building programmes and developing apps. There was a distinct mismatch between what was being taught in coding and programming courses and the application of these skills in the real world.
After we setup BongoHive, our efforts shifted to supporting entrepreneurs build viable solutions. When we started out, although we did not even have our own space for the first year we met regularly to explore technology platforms. Thanks to the growing demand from the local community and the responsiveness of the team, BongoHive was able to successively evolve from focusing strictly on technology education to accelerating the growth of young entrepreneurs. Today, as a technology and innovation hub, we offer consultation, training, and co-working space for entrepreneurs and growing startups. The co-working space at BongoHive is flexible, with daily to monthly rates, and the option for hot desking or to have a permanent desk. We also have a terrace for entrepreneurs who prefer to work with a view and fresh air.
What's the story behind the name BongoHive?
The name was suggested by the community. Bongo is derived from the iciBemba term“uBongo” that means brain and a Hive is a collective, BongoHive is a collective of minds coming together to learn, share and develop ideas for practical solutions.
What makes your hub unique?
BongoHive was the first innovation and tech hub in Zambia. We have been in business for nine years. As a first of its kind locally in this space, we have to consider scale for BongoHive and how to remain at the forefront of innovation and development. We harness the different expertise and experiences of our four founders and partners to help grow and develop startups, as well as establish partnerships with local and international organizations.
The journey of an entrepreneur can be intense and support is the key. For every programme, participants will join a WhatsApp Group of graduates from previous courses. This is a unique community they can turn to for support and guidance. We also provide online resources and start-up tools for young entrepreneurs, including how to pitch your startup, and literacy in accounting and finance. In addition, BongoHive hosts a podcast series with experts talking through various challenges that budding entrepreneurs may face and how they can tackle them. To learn more click here.
Moreover, you never know who is in the room and what kind of opportunities to collaborate could be lurking just around the corner. Our hive is an enriched environment to share experiences, nurture new ideas and ultimately, to support growth. Over the past 18 months, we have had a visit from Prince Harry the Duke of Sussex, where we were lucky enough to share in a conversation with him about entrepreneurship and our work. He met entrepreneurs who have benefited from BongoHive and listened to their stories.
Our work has also caught the attention of the Triggerfish Animation team, who were visiting Lusaka as part of their preparations for a series they are working on for Netflix. While in Lusaka, they had interesting discussions with members of the BongoHive community.
How do you differentiate your service offering from your competitors?
BongoHive is a community of young entrepreneurs who run startups. We believe learning is life-long and, as a business support organization, our journey continues to adapt and focus on learning and development, by offering a range of start-up and innovation programmes.
For example, we offer an ideation Bootcamp that supports potential entrepreneurs to validate their business ideas before they startup in the education technology (EdTech) sector. We also offer a 3-month acceleration programme for businesses building their ventures and seeking to identify product-market fit. We run both mixed cohorts and sector specific programmes. For example, we offer EdTech and Fintech bootcamps for businesses at the ideation and venture building stage. We also co-host the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs in Zambia. Additionally, we work with public and private partners to provide tailored programmes, including an Agribusiness Accelerator programme with a focus on rural businesses, and a series of learning and development support packages for individuals or organizations in the social impact space.
We also realize the need to start engaging tomorrow’s entrepreneurs at an early stage. We run Spark 4 Kids, a 2-day project-based programme, hosted during school holidays, introducing kids (9-12 year old) to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), computer programming and coding.
In a nutshell, we aim to build a nurturing environment for learning and the gestation of ideas, through our programmes. The BongoHive team works to provide consultative and innovative solutions to support entrepreneurs at each stage of their journey.
How and where do you market your services?
Largely digitally, through social media channels. However, we also rely strongly on word of mouth and recommendations from entrepreneurs who have been involved with our programmes. We do not commit resources to print media. We also benefit from partnerships with universities, local regulators, businesses and embassies, i.e. UN Capital Development Fund, IT Regulator in Zambia, British Council, American Embassy, Facebook, for our initiatives and programmes. Finally, the participation of the BongoHive team at workshops, events or exhibitions also helps develop connections and enhance our network.
How can a development agency like ITC help a hub like BongoHive to offer better services?
ITC could leverage its global reach and play a key role in sharing good practices worldwide. In particular, ITC could stir up conversation on best practices in Africa. Also, ITC can connect us with other partners to further develop the capacity and access to funding in the ecosystem.