Cape Town is Africa’s tech capital
5 November 2021
Cape Town is Africa’s tech capital – overflowing with entrepreneurs, innovative technology, and diverse start-ups. The melting pot of tech businesses is made possible by a combination of government and private collaboration, advanced digital infrastructure, a nurturing start-up environment, and the city’s location. The Mother City has been recognised for its achievements in the technology and digital innovation sectors. Cape Town (and South Africa) topped the leader board in the African Tech Ecosystems of the Future 2021/22 report by FDi, a division of the Financial Times. In this report, Cape Town was ranked second for its foreign direct investment (FDI) strategy. Meanwhile, the country came first for its economic potential, business friendliness and start-up status, and second for connectivity.
In addition, Cape Town was named the third-most ambitious city in the world, according to a report by London-based card payment provider, Dojo, and their Global Ambition Index.
Cape Town’s success in this sector is thanks to the City’s partnerships with organisations like the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi), Africa’s oldest tech start-up and incubator. CiTi has been instrumental in supporting more than 3,000 entrepreneurs over two decades. Cape Town’s venture capital network is highly developed and $88 million (R1.2 billion) of investment into the tech sector, spanning 46 deals, was recorded in 2020.
Cape Town encourages technological innovation
The City of Cape Town works hard to create an environment conducive to technological innovation, welcoming start-ups and other businesses in the tech and digital spaces. Infrastructure needed for these sectors to grow and thrive has been prioritised. The city has one of the largest open-access fibre networks in Africa, with an internet take up of 63%. The government also puts a lot of money into tech incubators and other organisations which support the city’s economic ecosystem.
On top of this, the Western Cape actively brands itself as ‘Africa’s tech capital’ due to the many tech and digital businesses based in and around Cape Town and Stellenbosch. The province has more than 22 active incubators and accelerators which provide business and tech support, mentoring and networking opportunities, and links to markets and funders. More than 25 co-working spaces foster innovation and creativity.
Importantly, the province boasts four leading tertiary education institutions – the University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, the University of the Western Cape, and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology – and six Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. These contribute to the skills base in the Western Cape.
The branding initiative champions public-private partnerships and is part of the Western Cape government’s strategy for economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic. “Key to our economic recovery are the partnerships between government and the private sector,” says Western Cape Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, David Maynier. “This new brand, which is a confidence boost to the sector, is a great example of a successful partnership between government and the private sector.”
Tech start-ups flourish in Cape Town
Cape Town is home to nearly 60% of South Africa’s start-ups, with some of the country’s most successful ones being born in the city, including Yoco, Aerobotics and SweepSouth.
Cape Town was one of three African cities that made it into the Global Start-up Ecosystem Report 2021’s list of top 100 emerging start-up ecosystems. This is the second year in a row that the city was ranked among the top start-up ecosystems in Africa. In this year’s report, the Mother City ranks first in talent and experience based on long-term trends over the most significant performance factors, and the ability to generate and keep talent in the start-up ecosystem. It came third in the performance and funding categories.
Cape Town’s location is another aspect that makes it attractive to start-ups and other businesses. Apart from its foothold in the African market, advanced infrastructure, low costs and high returns, it offers an idyllic lifestyle with beautiful surroundings and outdoor living.
The Mother City is also working to build an inclusive society, actively encouraging women in the tech and digital business sectors. CiTi, in partnership with the City of Cape Town, runs an annual Women in Business Programme. It helps women to future-proof their businesses, thrive in a digital economy, and offers networking opportunities.
Tech events in Cape Town
Given Cape Town’s status as the tech capital of Africa, it’s no surprise that the city hosts several tech-related events. Many training opportunities are also offered to keep technological innovation thriving in the city.
Here’s an overview of some of the city’s tech events.
- TECHSPO Cape Town is a two-day technology expo that brings developers, brands, marketers, technology providers, designers, and innovators together. It showcases technology and innovation in internet, mobile, AdTech, MarTech and SaaS technology.
- The BigFive Summit focuses on using technology to empower SMMEs in Africa and the Middle East. The summit covers everything from digital payment solutions to blockchain-driven fintech platforms that enable SMMEs to operate across borders.
- The SA Innovation Summit is held in Cape Town and online and claims to be the largest startup event in Africa. Entrepreneurs, investors, corporates, policy makers and thought leaders join the summit to support startups and inspire sustained economic growth across Africa.
- The WordPress Cape Town Meetup group gets together regularly to share knowledge and experience with other local WordPress developers, designers and publishers.
- Stellenbosch University’s LaunchLab is a university-backed incubator that often holds entrepreneurship-related events.
Over and above the tech events that are hosted by Cape Town, the city also funds training programmes for skills development in the tech sector. These training programmes, run through CiTi, are teaching students information and communications technology related skills as well as critical career and work-ready skills.