Coworking is a style of work that involves a shared working environment, often an office, and independent activity. Unlike in a typical office environment, those coworking are usually not employed by the same organization. Typically it is attractive to work-at-home professionals, independent contractors, or people who travel frequently who end up working in relative isolation. Coworking is also the social gathering of people who are still working independently, but who share values, and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with people who value working in the same place alongside each other.

Co-working spaces are new to Africa and more new entrepreneur startups are looking for more structured support, mentorship and seed funding to facilitate acceleration of their ventures – which is what business incubators are designed to do. Co-working spaces offer more flexibility than traditional business incubators, and may actually be a better environment for startups because it gives them what they really need.

Financial supporters such as DFID, Microsoft, UNDP and World Bank Infodev are running incubation programmes to support more startups to access finance, business skills, networking and mentorship to develop to high growth businesses that create jobs and have large scale impact.

The Ethiopian Climate Innovation Center (CIC) is an initiative supported by the World Bank’s InfoDev Incubation program aims to accelerate the development, deployment, and transfer of locally relevant climate technologies that can mitigate the effects of climate change on the Ethiopian environment. ECIC provides access to finance, access to product testing facilities, market information, policy advocacy and technical assistance. But the most basic value-added service of ECIC is access to the Co-working space found at our office.

ECIC co-working facilities include desktop computers with WIFI internet, ample desks for laptop users, access to coffee and tea, access to mentors and counselors. The great advantage of co-working space at ECIC will be it gives the opportunity to meet interesting people, potential partners, future collaborators and technical experts who can make ones market and product research more efficient. On the other hand incubator clients will get intensive business counseling; grow at their own pace; learn from others; partner up or share ideas; get exposure and support.

Co-working spaces are great platforms for nurturing and shaping ideas of starting young entrepreneurs in Africa and there is always need for more. But as the ecosystem continues to mature and hunger for more successful and scalable businesses, then the co-working spaces have to think strategically of ways to remain relevant and attract the right community of members who then can be further nurtured through business incubators and accelerator programs with the potential of becoming profitable and scalable. They need to think of competitive value propositions and support systems that will help catalyze the growth of startups within the period they are clients of the program.