The verticalisation of the accelerator space in Africa

Marcello Schermer, regional manager for Africa at Seedstars World, takes a look at Africa’s accelerator space, how it is developing and the challenges it faces.

Accelerators are incredibly popular these days. If you are a corporate, you have to have one (or more), if you are an investor, you are thinking of opening one, and if you are an entrepreneur you are most likely working with one (or will do so soon). Especially in Africa, accelerators are everywhere. All of this is for good reasons:

Despite the numerous programs out there, the number of successful startups coming from accelerators is still quite small.

In a recent article, Mark Essien, the founder of, a Nigerian startup that recently raised $1.2 million believes the accelerator model doesn’t work and attracts the wrong founders.

Based on my experience designing, implementing and working with numerous accelerators in Africa, the US and Europe I see two main shortcomings in the current accelerator model:

What can accelerators do to avoid these two risks? It’s actually quite simple: they need to specialise and move from adding a little value to many startups to adding a lot of value to a few startups.

Slowly but steadily, corporates and accelerator programmes on the continent are realising this and building specific programmes for fintech, health and hardware instead of general purpose accelerator programmes. Good examples are the fintech accelerator that Barclays runs with Techstars or the health accelerator that AMPION runs with Merck. These programmes have a few key advantages:

I think that in the future we will see more specialised and niche accelerators with a laser focus on one industry or issue and a highly specialised network of mentors, resources, partners and advisors that can create maximum impact in one specific area instead of a little impact in all of them.

With enough specialisation, focus on value add and quality it will only be a matter of time until the first highly successful African startup comes from a local accelerator programme.



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