Why Ghana is the best location for an African Startup Accelerator

Someone close to me always uses this term to describe Ghana, "the closest country to the heart of the earth" She describes her country this way because it is the closest country to intersection of the Greenwich Meridian and the Equator.

Leaving the nationalistic sentiments aside, the facts all show that Ghana is not only one of the world's fastest growing economies, it is one of the very best in Africa.

 http://blogs.worldbank.org/africacan/node/2036

Ghana's growth rate has been spectacular. Ghana's economy has grown from 7% in 2010 to 13% in 2011. The country is stable politically and probably has the best Internet and power infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa. You can compare more statistics between Ghana and others in Africa here 

http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/AFRICAEXT/GHANAEXTN/0,,men...

All of the above points to one thing, it is a great place to start a business and an even better place in Africa for startups to thrive. In spite of the glaring facts stated above, it still surprises me that after Sarah Lacy featured me in her TechCrunch article last year:

 http://techcrunch.com/2011/05/13/yes-there-are-tech-startups-in-nigeria-here-... 

I still keep getting asked the question why Ghana instead of Nigeria? The decision to have a startup based in Ghana instead of Nigeria to me is quite obvious. 

 Startups are like babies and they need a nurturing environment to survive and move to the next stage. Nigeria and most other African countries do not have the right environment to make this happen easily.

It is very easy to blame 419 and other cosmetic factors... especially as was alluded to in another recent post by Sarah Lacy on Jason Njoku the founder of Iroko a Nigerian Internet Startup. 

http://pandodaily.com/2012/02/21/why-this-nigerian-movie-mogul-ditched-youtube/

In the post she (Sarah Lacy) mentioned that he (Jason) could “do what many Nigerian entrepreneurs do, and hide his digital location, saying he was headquartered in Ghana”...but didn't.  

That statement made my jaw drop in astonishment as it shows that there is not yet proper understanding of the importance of Ghana to the African Startup Ecosystem.

Saying that "Hiding digital location" is the main reason why African Internet entrepreneurs specifically Nigerian move to Ghana is not actually providing accurate reasons why Nigerian entrepreneurs move to another country just 45 minutes away.

Ghana has the same IP issues as Nigeria and is also frequently blacklisted because there are fraudsters there as well. The real reasons why African internet entrepreneurs move to Ghana is because it is cheaper and simpler to do serious business there period.

For example, we pay $120 monthly for 20Mb Bandwidth in Ghana while in Nigeria for lower bandwidth a similar startup funded from South Africa pays $4500 for 8Mb. That startup also has to build a huge mast that cost them another $6,000 to get line of sight to their ISP.

There is constant power in Ghana while the same startup in Nigeria has to buy their own power generator and fuel which is now very expensive and led to riots earlier this year because of subsidies that were removed.

When you innovate and create new markets, nobody wants to know how you overcame your constraints, they only see results.

I never even knew all of these issues Jason was having with Youtube etc until you mentioned it. Moving to Ghana is our own way of overcoming those constraints as the market is really Africa and not just Nigeria. I keep saying it proudly that Africa has provided me more opportunities than any single country and that is why I see myself first as an African before I belong to any country Nigeria or Ghana.

For us we have realized that the advantages we have discovered in Ghana can be used to the benefit of more than a few entrepreneurs and that is why we decided to start our own 100% African Startup Accelerator – Afrinnova (www.afrinnova.com) in Accra. We will be using Ghana’s central location and favorable conditions to act as a hub for the entire continent.

Afrinnova will be helping African startups with innovative ideas to develop Africa. Those ideas also have to be scalable beyond one country. For now we are starting with startups focused on payments and transactions systems and the goal is to provide depth to the ecosystem, which will subsequently act as a catalyst for other startups.

Even Jason’s company will not grow in Africa without payments even if the infrastructure problems are solved. We have built up an impressive portfolio of startups and mentors from all over Africa.

Our invitation to Sarah Lacy is still open to actually visit Ghana.

9 responses
Well Written. What about other factors?? like office space? accomodation?? are they also considerably cheaper (for same or better quality?)...

also, care to share a url for the ISP?

Finally, Afrinnova sounds interesting.

Your title is misleading. It should be 'Why Ghana is the best location for a West African startup'. Kenya beats you both hands down.
Very interesting title you have for this article. I definitely will side with WgKantai above on changing the title to - "Why Ghana is the best location for a West African Startup" If you're able to answer the following questions for me, I shall reconsider your article.

1. How long have you lived in Ghana? Are you an Entrepreneur or you have a 8-5 full-time job?

2. What policy has the gov't in Ghana formulated to assist Tech-preneurs (start-ups)? Show me a document and I shall buy you a lunch at a restaurant of your choice.

I'm commenting on this article right from Nairobi, Kenya where I'm attending a Mobile Web East-Africa event. The stats, ideas and presentations about mobile innovations from Kenya and neighboring countries are just too awesome to side with your article. If you were not able to sustain your start-up in Nigeria due to energy issue and getting a fair deal in Ghana doesn't make this country the best destinations for start-ups in Africa but for West Africa.

Shola, office space is very sensibly priced if you dont want to be on the high street (and I believe no startup should) We have an awesome location near the University of Ghana that we probably would have paid a fortune for elsewhere. Our office in Nigeria costs 3 times as much and is less than half the size.

The ISP we use is Vodafone Ghana and their broadband plans are listed here:

http://www.vodafone.com.gh/Internet-Cafes/Fixed-broadband/Downloader.aspx

@wgkantai and @macjordan I always avoid comparisons between East Africa and West African technology that tend to be like high-school popularity contests. I am an advocate of collaboration between East and West for the benefit for all of Africa and that is why we started Afrinnova to bridge this divide.

East Africa obviously has a tremendous head-start in mobile and web technology and I will be foolish to deny that fact. The advantages Ghana has however are more than what Kenya or any other country in Africa has and that is: Stable political climate and little ethnic or tribal tensions, access to excellent human capital, comparably better infrastructure and most importantly proximity to the largest and most diverse market in Africa. If you add all of these together you have a country with tremendous potential waiting to be tapped.

As at 2008, USAID noted that trade between Nigeria and Ghana was over $10 Billion annually. If you add the Francophone market to this you will see that Ghana is excellently positioned as a hub.

I left Uganda today and I am currently in Nairobi for the same MobileWeb East Africa conference. I see a lot of brilliant entrepreneurs also in East Africa who can solve largely East African problems and at Afrinnova we are looking for solutions that can scale beyond one country. For Africa to develop, Africans must solve the problems for all of Africa and not their own domains alone.

We have met a few outstanding East African companies who can scale and will be part of our portfolio of startups. Details will be given in due course.

As for how long I have lived in Ghana and how long I have been an entrepreneur? I think the best place to start getting information on that would be my Linkedin profile: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/edit?trk=hb_tab_pro_top

I have been involved for two decades in helping South African Startups scale across Africa and now it is time for the rest of Africa and Ghana is the hub for that.

Those who ignore Ghana do so at their peril. We at Afrinnova however have not

this is my first visit to this blog, great work, if Africans can come together and innovate, success will be inevitable. Great work and great article
Interesting post. I agree with most of your submission except for the constant supply of Electricity. The last couple of months have been awful for businesses. I guess you were comparing the situation to that of Nigeria, that is why we are seen as the better option, I still think there is a lot to be done in the Electricity section though.
Hi, Nice article, am currently in Ghana also thinking along the same lines, so many questions to ask, can you mail me so we can have a chat, I am working on an African Startup too, should lunch by 1st quarter of the new year.
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