Tech hubs in Africa and theri Ability ti Act as Catalysers for Intergration into Global Production Networks: A casestudy of the iHub in Nairobi, Kenya

Mie Hvas

Student thesis: Master thesis


In the light of knowledge and innovation being widely accepted as key to development and economic growth, and the information and communication technologies (ICT) altering barriers of distance and cost and changing the grounds for competitiveness, this thesis explores the relatively new and rapidly evolving phenomenon of tech hubs in Africa. Tech hubs are dominantly private sector actors, which consist of a physical space that serves as a nexus point for developers, entrepreneurs and investors focused on innovation and technology. During the past five years more than 90 tech hubs have surfaced in Africa, begging the question of how and whether they can tap into global opportunities. Through a single case study of one of these tech hubs, the iHub in Kenya, this thesis explores how and through which means tech hubs may act as catalysers for integration into global economic flows, or more specifically, into global production networks (GPNs). As such, the research question that guides this thesis is: How can tech hubs in Africa through the formation of linkages act as catalysers for integration into global production networks? Based on the research question the purpose of this thesis is twofold: First, to offer novel considerations on tech hubs, on which very little research has been conducted, and as such to fill a gap in the existing body of literature; and second, to add to the development of theory by arriving at theoretical propositions pertaining to tech hubs. In order to arrive at an answer of the research question a theoretical framework is developed in the thesis based on the previous body of literature pertaining to the three main variables illustrated by the research question, i.e. tech hubs, linkages and global production networks. Subsequently the framework is tested on the case of the iHub in Kenya. The conclusion of the thesis is that tech hubs can reach beyond their spatial boundaries in the establishment of linkages with actors in the ICT industry globally, and that they on the basis of pooling specialised skills and knowledge can become attractive partners to lead firms in GPNs, which puts them in a position where they can act as catalysers for integration into GPNs. As such, the conclusion also points towards strong interdependencies and feedback loops between the main variables explored. Furthermore, the thesis concludes by making the following theoretical propositions: Tech hubs can be approached analytically in similar ways to clusters; their connections with global actors in the ICT industry can be explored through linkages; as well as through analytical measures derived from GPN theory.

EducationsMSc in Management of Innovation and Business Development, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages164