Do pass by number 205/6 2nd Emmause Lane at Labone, a suburb of Accra and though there seems to be nothing extraordinary about the building, you will be amazed by the ingenuity and technological innovation behind those walls. Big things they say often come in small and unassuming packages, and on a seemingly ordinary Saturday, the Afdtechtalk team chose to make its next stop in its quest to visit all Ghanaian tech hubs by knocking on the doors of iSpace Foundation.
We had lots of expectations, and the warm welcome we had from the hub’s CEO and co-founder Josiah was a beautiful first impression. To give a bit of background, iSpace Foundation is a Ghanaian technology hub set up in 2013 by Josiah Eyison and Fiifi Baidoo to offer a co-working space, tools and facilities for entrepreneurs and start-ups to launch and manage their business ideas. Over the years, it has offered technological training in software development, web applications and robotics to youthful, passion-driven Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians. The foundation has been the birthplace of tech startups in Ghana like Moja (meaning “blood” in Twi, a Ghanaian language), Axum Consults, Tukwan, Flippify, among others.
Since it was a Saturday, we didn’t expect much activity at the premises, however we were amazed to find a few under-15 kids around hunched behind their laptops “doing their own thing”. We found the premises mind and eye stimulating due to the lively colors and art. Leafy trees and flowers at the back yard offered an open air space for relaxation and deep thinking. We were not surprised to learn from the young entrepreneurs with laptops and multi-billion dollar dreams we met that, they sometimes spend time overnight on makeshift beds and mattresses in the outdoor serenity when working on their software. Passion indeed.
We mostly see Asian teens do this on TV, so we were pleasantly surprised to find Kojo a junior high school teen (not his real name) trained in robotics at the Foundation, already working on an Arduino and Raspberry project.
Josiah explained the rationale behind the name and logo of the foundation. For starters, “iSpace” means “individual space”. The name represents a space of your own where thinking can be done to birth new ideas. Again, you will notice the logo has an inverted “I” without a dot, and a triangle representing “A” in the word “space”. The upside down “i” with no dot represents the need to “lose one’s head” if one desires to be an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurial spirit is for the brave hearted, and until one takes giant leaps and “upside down” decisions that may seem crazy to the ordinary man, you may never end up being the entrepreneur you desire.
Also, the triangle is an architectural symbol for stability and foundations in the design of buildings. The foundation desires to give tech startups a basic foundation to launch out to accomplish their entrepreneurial dreams.
Even though the iSpace Foundation is doing exploits in Ghana’s tech space, they have their fair share of challenges. Being a company registered as an NGO, its funds for running the foundation mostly come from venture capitalists. Venture capitalists are firms or individuals who provide funds to emerging smaller firms that show potential for growth. With Ghana being a developing economy with technological innovation scratching just the surface of Ghanaian priorities, it is quite difficult finding willing individuals or firms who will want to invest in tech firms especially at its early stages. iSpace Foundation has however developed another income generating strategy by renting out its premises for tech-oriented meetings and events for a token of support.
iSpace Foundation offers training programs and it aspires to get certified accreditation from the National Accreditation Board (NAB). Josiah informed us plans are underway to acquire that accreditation in order to award its students a nationally recognized certificate for their time of studies. Though NAB officials have not been as forthcoming as the managers of iSpace expect, they are still resilient and continue with their good works. Trainers, teachers and mentors at iSpace are self-motivated and passion-driven. They believe the best evidence for a training received is how well you can replicate it in solving real life problems and not just acquiring a certificate.
We got into a lengthy conversion with Josiah and Noreen, the CEO of Radical Leap who was present at the time of our tour after we were done seeing the premises. One of the questions that came up during our discussion was the industry in Ghana that needs technological innovation the most. Josiah did not make a choice; he said he believes tech has a role to play in every industry in Ghana — in Agriculture, Commerce, Manufacturing & Processing, Education, Health, etc. He lamented the tons of well-known “paperwork” and bureaucracy due the lack of digitization in certain aspects of our economy. He gave examples of land litigation issues he had encountered due to lack of digitization in record keeping and a functional and intuitive addressing system.
The future of Tech in Ghana is bright with hubs like iSpace Foundation challenging the status quo and going all out to help tech entrepreneurs accomplish their dreams.