By Nzekwe Henry
As of February this year, browsing through Startup Genome’s so-called “Global Map Of Innovation” revealed a huge and very conspicuous blank space right in the middle of the map.
In a visual representation that supposedly highlights thriving innovation ecosystems around the globe with tiny blue dots, the African continent was completely unmarked — perhaps signaling that there is no innovation in Africa at the time.
Evidently, the African continent has magically birthed five innovation ecosystems in the space of 3-4 months. And that’s because, Startup Genome, has since added five of those tiny blue dots to the African portion of the map, perhaps as an afterthought or an attempt to correct the blunder.
Each of those tiny blue dots on the African map now signals thriving innovation ecosystems in Lagos (Nigeria), Nairobi (Kenya), Cape Town (South Africa), Cairo (Egypt), and Kampala (Uganda).
But the picture painted above may already be stale gist. Here’s some fresh juice: Startup Genome, which came into existence in 2010, “mentioned” the African continent for the first time in its so-called “Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2020 (#GSER2020)” which was released on Thursday, June 25.Also Read:2 Years After Tunisia Startup Act: What’s Changed & What Lessons Can Be Learnt?
For the first time ever, Startup Genome ranked four African cities in their “Top 100 Emerging Ecosystems” list. The four cities, all of which ranked in the bottom half, are the usual suspects — Cairo, Cape Town, Lagos, and Nairobi. Collectively, they make up only 4 percent of the emerging ecosystems covered in the list.
Apart from this ranking, there is no other mention of the African ecosystem in the report at all. This is curious because the report does dive into other fast-rising ecosystems but largely ignores the African startup ecosystem which has become one of the fastest-growing in the world.
“Their methodology is just uselessly uncontextualized,” tweeted Justin Norman, Founder and Host of The Flip Africa, in reaction to the just-released report which, yet again, under-represented the African ecosystem despite the continued posturing of the report as a thorough pulse check on the state of affairs around the globe.
“It’s because no one in the African ecosystem hires them to do ecosystem consulting work, so they only care if they’re being paid to care,” he remarked with obvious disdain.
Startup Genome describes itself as “the world-leading policy advisory and research organization for governments and public-private partnerships committed to accelerating the success of their startup ecosystem, having advised more than 100 clients across 38 countries.”
It claims that the 2020 Global Startup Ecosystem Report, which it produced in partnership with Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), is “the world’s most comprehensive and widely-read research on startup ecosystems.
Yet, just 4 months ago, Startup Genome basically implied that there was no innovation in Africa and waited until 2020 to finally recognize African cities on its global ecosystem rankings — even though the African innovation and startup ecosystems have been growing at a searing pace over the last decade.
Startup Genome says its quantitative data infrastructure includes data on over 1.27 million companies, 250+ ecosystems, and survey data from more than 10,000 startup executives across the globe. It’s overall ranking is based on performance (30%), funding (25%), market reach (15%), connectedness (5%), experience and talent (20%), and knowledge (5%).
Not that they owe it anyone to go about their work differently but there are many active players in the African startup ecosystem are of the opinion that, for a network that boasts a global perspective. Startup Genome has long and unfairly neglected the African continent and still does too.