Afropreneurs: How These Coworking Spaces Navigate Ghana's Startup Ecosystem

The growth of Ghana’s startup community and expansion of resources signals that the Black Stars are on the rise.

When Makafui Ayimey left his job as communications manager to launch his startup, Accra Goods Market, searching for an office space in a city of sky-high rents seemed daunting. “I wanted an affordable space, and the ability to network with like-minded entrepreneurs,” he says. But with the average monthly office rent in Accra hovering around $1.63 per square foot—a price comparable to office rents in Atlanta and Dallas—securing a space seemed near impossible.

In Workshed, a new co-working space off of Spintex Road, one of the capital’s major highways, he found a solution. With desk space, meeting rooms, happy hours, and other amenities, Workshed’s ambience (and flexible payment plan) quickly drew him in.

Accra Goods Market, a pop-up open-air market showcasing the best of Ghanaian food, fashion and design, is one of a growing number of startups opting for the perks of flexibility and camaraderie of a shared office space.

Andrew Bimpong and Richard Bempong, co-founders of Workshed, came up with the concept in the process of looking for an office space themselves. “As we looked for spaces to kick off our business, we stumbled across Deskhub, a coworking space in San Francisco. The concept was new to us, but appealing so we put work on our fashion startup on hold to research what it would take to set up our own co-working space,” Andrew explains. “Other game leaders like WeWork pushed us further into developing the concept which was and is new in our part of the world.”

Like many entrepreneurs, the two business partners struggled with access to capital and access to space. With Workshed, they strive to create an enabling environment for Ghana’s nascent startups by building a community that emphasizes collaboration and dialogue.

Co-working, a trend pioneered by companies like WeWork, is a trend common in major American cities in New York or San Francisco. Across Africa, it remains a new concept. However, as investment across the continent picks up steam, more startups are taking advantage of collaborative workplaces. According to data firm Social Workplaces, in 2013, there were only 24 coworking spaces across the continent. By 2015, the number grew up to 250. In Accra, there are over five today. They range from collaborative workspaces like Workshed to more full-fledged hubs and incubators with an even more expansive range of services.

Incubators and Hubs: The Next Frontier?

With over six companies using its facilities, Workshed is poised to follow the growth of older Ghanaian co-working spaces like iSpace and Impact Hub Accra, which have expanded their capacities as leading innovation labs for Accra’s burgeoning startup community.

iSpace founder Kwesi Eyison describes the hub as a “solutions provider” rather than a simple work space. “Our space is open 24 hours as we understand the demand patterns of our members,” he stresses. “We focus heavenly on equipping entrepreneurs with all the necessary resources beyond just a work space or Internet. We offer trainings and focus less on events such as hackathons, and more on bringing products to market as well as providing programs [including tech business and skills development].

Founded in 2013, iSpace focuses on building Ghana’s ecosystem by building the capacity of entrepreneurs building ventures in a system where government support and access to finance can be hard to come by. In just four years of operation, iSpace has hosted a wide range of events from "Social Impact Week" to "Hack4Good" and a "Global Entrepreneurs Week" in collaboration with Microsoft. The hub also regularly hosts workshops and speaker series aimed at teaching the fundamentals of business like product design and branding. One of iSpace’s latest initiatives, “Unlocking Women and Technology” hopes to encourage more Ghanaian women to enter the tech space.

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