Hive Colab is the newest co-working space on the East Africa scene. But what is it and where did it come from? To explain I should start from the beginning. Over the past two years I’ve been fortunate to see Appfrica grow and change as a company. We started as an incubator, and gradually shifted to more of a profitable, and very busy software development consultancy (which is how we continue to fund our investments).
Appfrica started in the little kitchen of my house in Kitintale.
Later, we moved across the street to my landlord’s guest house. A little cramped, but a fun space none-the-less.
We soon moved up again, to a double suite at a local office complex.
We’ve been in this new space almost exactly a year now. In that time, I reckon I’ve spent about four months actually in the physical office. Partly due to my heavy travel schedule; partly because when I’m in the space I get roped into all sorts of things that distract me; and partly because I often go to bed working and wake up working. With a 3G modem there’s no need to even get out of bed some days. (Although, I try to get out to at least to see the sun.)
Also, most of the Appfrica staff also have dongles, meaning they can also work from anywhere. We came to the conclusion that the office space was essentially just a luxury for us rather than the necessity it once was. (I still remember those hot summer days hacking apps on thumb drives.)
Because Appfrica no longer needs our physical space, I’ve decided to contribute it and all it’s resources (servers, desks, laptops, phones, etc.) to the local Ugandan software development community. Along with an agreement to cover staff and maintenance costs, at least for the first year. It’s a significant investment but one we’re fortunate to be able to make. Our office has always been a open space, the big difference with Hive is that a number of community stakeholders are involved, each hopefully vested in the success of the initiative.
So together with a colleagues and local stakeholders like Project Diaspora’s Teddy Ruge, UConnect’s Daniel Stern and others, we announced Hive Colab a month ago at Africa Gathering.
The Vision for Hive
As you can see on the map above, this first space (represented with the blue pin) is located on the outskirts of town, just across the street from Makerere Business School. Rather than have one big centrally located space, we hope to replicate what we’ve got here on the other side of town so that the two Hives become more accessible to people who don’t have the money or time to travel across town. Two or more spaces, distributed across Kampala will simply reach more people. The red pin illustrates where we hope to locate the second one, where Google Uganda is located now, and near Makerere University proper.
So our vision is to have three parallel spaces in operation within three years, rather than one big one.
How Does Appfrica Fit In?
I mentioned above that Appfrica made the initial investment to ensure the Hive has a great first year by covering most of the startup costs. We consider it an investment, although there’s no fiscal return expected or ownership on our part. It’s a position we’re grateful to be in, and we’ll continue investing in local talent and great social initiatives like this one. As a for-profit business, Appfrica will continue providing it’s clients software development and design solutions, and we will continue to invest in local talent through projects like Apps4Africa, Hive and AfriLabs.
Over the past two years there’s been a lot of talk about Uganda and the potential of it’s private sector, but little action on the part of investors or organizations offering grants. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, rather I see it as an opportunity for Ugandans and Ugandan diaspora to double-down, both figuratively and literally on the countries nascent sectors and talent. If we truly believe in the opportunity that exists here, then we shouldn’t wait for other people to invest. It should be about being the example that encourages them.
For more information, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org