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AUC Venture Lab Out to Discover the Future of African Cities



 Participants networking before starting the second day of the Future of African Cities conference 


By Nour Ibrahim 


Africa is the continent with the highest share of entrepreneurial adults according to the African Economic Outlook report for the year 2017. However, entrepreneurship remains challenged by social and financial exclusion as well as poor infrastructure.

This year, AUC Venture Lab collaborated with AfriLabs Annual Gathering, Hivos Coworking Summit, Progrss, Wasabi and The French University to bring the Future of African Cities conference to Cairo this year.

The conference focused on coworking spaces and how they positively reflect on entrepreneurship. Coworking spaces are usually flexible spaces that the employees of different organizations can share and work from.

“It’s the first time for AUC Venture Lab to take part in this and we’re thrilled to be hosting the conference. At AUC Venture Lab, we believe in the importance of collaborations and networking and this conference will allow African entrepreneurs to do just that. This is a great opportunity for all conference participants to expand their networks, share their resources and grow as business leaders,” said Ayman Ismail, Abdul Latif Jameel endowed chair of entrepreneurship at AUC's School of Business and AUC Venture Lab’s director.

The collaboration for this conference came as part of the efforts of AUC Venture Lab to enhance the co-working spaces environment through the Coworking for Sustainable Employment (LEAD) program in partnership with Nahdet El Mahrousa and Hivos.

“By building the capacities and infrastructure of co-working spaces in governorates across Egypt, "LEAD" aims to decentralize services concentrated in Cairo. The program aims to utilize existing local supporting hubs to assemble and cultivate a supporting ecosystem for entrepreneurship to promote employment within co-working spaces and start-ups and boost the overall economic development of governorates in Egypt," said Jackie Kameel, Nahdet El Mahrousa’s managing director.

The conference was held on October 18, 19 and 20. It hosted more than 250 participants from 80 technology and innovation hubs and co-working spaces from 35 African countries.

It offered a chance for Africa’s innovators to meet and network as they received inspiration and guidance from prominent professionals.

Taking the boom of entrepreneurship and its challenges into consideration, this year’s conference theme was: ‘Future of Cities: Innovation, Spaces and Collaboration.’ The panels and the talks spanned a variety of topics including impact measurement, case studies and insights into the different sectors. Speakers included CEOs, founders, board members and entrepreneurs from Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, India, Tunisia and Cameroon among other countries.

Anna Ekeledo, executive director of AfriLabs described the event as a “three-day conference full of exciting activities and discussions which will form the foundation of relationships forged, ecosystem collaborations and innovative solutions which will be implemented on the continent for urban, economic and social development.”

The conference was scheduled for three days and the agenda included joint and parallel sessions. The AUC campus hosted the conference’s second day.

“Observing the diversity of participants and different partners coming together to be part of this event from both networks is mouth-watering,” said Ahmed Sameh, Hivos’s project manager.

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AUC launched AUC Venture Lab (V-Lab) in 2013 which is the first university-based incubator in Egypt. It incubates early-stage and growth-stage startups that are chosen through a selection process that judges the novelty of the idea, the team’s track record and cohesion, scalability and potential for commercialization, as well as the team’s tenacity and commitment to success. Once selected, the startups benefit from training sessions, mentors, student internships and their presence at the AUC School of Business. They also play an active role in the AUC community and Egypt, sharing their entrepreneurial experience with students, faculty members, mentors and investors, as well as a global alumni network.