Landscape Study of Accelerators and Incubators in East Africa

A Knowledge Brief by the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative

Nov 2020

Over the last decade, the maturation of the business landscape has opened new opportunities in Africa, especially the entry of accelerator and incubator programs (AIPs). These AIPs are consistently adapting their models to respond to the ever-changing needs of the ventures they support, and there is a need for existing literature to keep abreast with this dynamism in order to strengthen programming and the ecosystems in which AIPs operate. This knowledge brief explores characteristics of AIPs in East Africa, focusing specifically on Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. It highlights existing practices and perceptions among AIPs to better establish a common understanding of the current AIP landscape, best practices, and key challenges.

Key Takeaways:

Services offerings and direct funding

  • AIPs provide a suite of services, most commonly including mentoring, training, and networking.
  • The majority of AIPs offer some form of financing to ventures, most commonly grants.
  • Alternative financing structures such as blended financing and quasi-equity are not common among AIPs.

Recruitment and selection

  • AIPs recruit using referrals, self-developed databases, and open and closed calls.
  • Mismatched entrepreneur expectations and AIP service offerings contribute to high drop-out rates.
  • Best practices for AIPs in the region include developing industry partnerships for recruitment, including professionals in pipeline selection, and creating a selection process specific to the AIP’s target venture.

Program delivery

  • AIPs use both group and individual-based models of delivery.
  • Challenges in program delivery are related to time-constrained staff, evaluating program outcomes, and identifying and maintaining funding sources.
  • Best practices in program delivery include co-creating programs with stakeholders, developing incentives for ventures, and having blended delivery models.

Financial sustainability models

  • AIPs are diversifying revenue sources to enhance financial sustainability.
  • Primary challenges in financial sustainability include mismatched venture realities and funder/investor priorities, as well as market distortion from charity-based AIPs.
  • Opportunities for improved sustainability include exploring corporate partnerships and communicating value through quality measurement.

Alumni engagement

  • Alumni serve important roles in many AIPs, including delivering trainings and supporting with marketing and selection.
  • Limited resources restrict alumni support programming, along with alumni moving to other cities.
  • AIPs can engage alumni through activities that allow them to access markets, network, and capital.

Read the full brief for more insights and a directory of participating accelerators and incubators in East Africa.