By Laylah Higgins
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 supporting young entrepreneurial talent.
This week we sat down with Prince Boadu, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Kumasi Hive, a technology and innovation hub in Kumasi, Ghana. Read on and learn how Kumasi Hive provides a platform for startups to grow and promote entrepreneurship in Kumasi and across Ghana.
How did the idea for Kumasi Hive come about?
I always like to say Kumasi Hive started through a conversation. I have been fascinated by the huge potential of the youth in Africa ever since my undergraduate studies at Kwame Nkrumah’ University of Science and Technology (KNUST). During that period, I started my first initiative on campus, Evolv. Africa, with a focus on training and development of entrepreneurship skills. By the time I left the university, we had trained around 2000 graduates.
After I graduated from my first degree, I became a Teaching Assistant at KNUST. That was when I first met Jorge Appiah, Co-founder and now CEO of Kumasi Hive. Jorge invited me to join and share ideas with a group of young engineers who met regularly on campus. Our conversations evolved to the creation of an ecosystem for innovators to develop innovation and attract funding for promising initiatives in Kumasi. In spite of Kumasi being the second largest city in Ghana, all the funding was going to Accra back then. There were many young people in our communities with amazing ideas but what was missing was the support and resources. As the well-known African proverb says: “Until the Lion learns to write, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” We can be the change we want to see. That was why Jorge, myself and 3 other friends started Kumasi Hive in early 2016.
Kumasi Hive aims to bridge the gap between education and the labour market and to drive the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. We started Kumasi Hive with our own funding. Initially, we put all our savings into renting an office space. At one point, we even had to move in and lived at the Hive for a couple of months to manage the business. Before the funds completely ran out, we managed to raise over 13,000 pounds through a Go Fund Me fundraising campaign, which helped Kumasi Hive grow to what it is today.
What makes Kumasi Hive unique?
Kumasi Hive is a tech innovation hub for rapid prototyping of ideas to develop local hardware innovations. Kumasi Hive provides impactful start-up support & promotes youth entrepreneurship as a way of addressing critical social economic and developmental challenges. We provide courses on coding, the Internet of Things, Augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence. ICT has come to the top of the agenda across Africa.
What makes Kumasi Hive unique is that we do more than just hardware innovations. Our focus also includes 3D modelling, 3D printing and robotics programmes. We aim to promote sustainable industrialisation by lowering the barriers to creating local small-scale manufacturing businesses for the products needed in the immediate community. Recently, we have started sharing podcasts to build connections and drive conversation with the local community and stakeholders.
However, our support does not end there. In addition, we have a strong focus on social entrepreneurship and strive to create a positive social impact for the local population. For example, we have a grant from the Policy Centre for the New South, Morocco, to support girls in high school and university in biotechnologies. We help these students to understand how to leverage this technology and pursue their careers in biotechnology.
Kumasi employees also undertake CSR projects. We had a grant from Merck KGaA in Germany to support a local orphanage in Kumasi. Twelve employees from Merck and the Kumasi Hive hardware team worked together to build a playground, renovate the orphanage and constructed a hydroponic garden for the children.
If we had just focused on hardware innovations, we would have missed some great opportunities to broaden our support as well as valuable opportunities for exposure in the market.
Another area that we are actively involved in is supporting the local community to ‘go green’. One of our projects, in collaboration with the MasterCard Foundation, called Solar Taxi, which provides transport services using renewable energy at competitive prices and helps reduce environmental pollution with a solution harnessing solar power.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted Kumasi Hive?
We had to think outside of the box in order to keep sustaining and paying our 40 staff. Some projects we were expecting to start were put on hold, due to the pandemic. It was a huge disruption in the sense that most of our budget was locked in with the commitments of our suspended projects. We had to quickly figure out how to manage our cash flow. The team of Kumasi Hive has demonstrated a strong commitment to our work. We are really like a family at Kumasi Hive. They volunteered for salary cuts, in some instances, to maintain the operation. Fortunately, now that projects are gradually coming back, we have survived the most difficult time together!
What are the plans for Kumasi Hive in 2021 and beyond?
We will focus on three key areas. First, we will become leaner and zoom in on the core mandate of the organisation, including the hardware prototyping and entrepreneurship training. Second, to build strong and solid collaboration with international partners outside Ghana, such as the Ye! Community and ITC. More broadly, we want to grow our capacity and capabilities through a two-way transfer of technical skills. For example, we had a collaboration with MIT, which was very successful. As part of the collaboration, Kumasi Hive team members learned new skill sets and new programming languages. This can only come from real partnerships where we co-create, rather than simply from funding or grants. A third key focus will be to engage more youth into technology and into creating local solutions that have a global impact.
Now Prince, we want to ask you the Ye! deep dive question- this is a question where we dive below the surface to learn what really inspires and drives your work. We would like to know:
As a young entrepreneur from an emerging economy, can you share why spaces like Kumasi Hive, which nurture, develop and provide a community, are so essential to the development of youth and the local economy?
Kumasi Hive can play the pivotal role of ecosystem partner for programs initiated by the Ye! Community ambassadors in Ghana and beyond. We belong to one of the largest entrepreneurship and startup ecosystems in Ghana, with a clear talent acquisition pipeline that helps us to attract talents for all our initiatives. I am very proud to say that our team of 40 staff are as passionate about promoting entrepreneurship as the founders.
How has the Ye! Community supported your work at Kumasi Hive?
Finally, I have to highlight the key role played by the Ye! Community in scaling up our programmes. When I first got involved with the Ye! Community in 2015 through the Ye BoostCamp program, a few of us who applied formed an ad hoc community to meet regularly, in order to share ideas on how to grow our startups during that time. Ye Ambassadors in Ghana have been doing a lot of work to grow the youth entrepreneurship ecosystem nationwide. Recently through Ye! Community contacts, we have secured a grant with the ITC to implement programs for entrepreneurs in Ghana. I believe this is just the beginning of a stronger, robust relationship going forward.
To learn more about Kumasi Hive click here
All photos provide courtesy of Prince Boadu and Kumasi Hive