Berlin, London, Tel Aviv – these cities are all becoming synonymous with startups, and fierce competitors to Silicon Valley. But successful new technology firms are no longer limited to developed economies, with thousands now making gains in emerging markets in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.
According to data from the World Bank, there are now more than 90 tech hubs across Africa. Regions such as South East Asia have also caught the eye of both investors and intrepid entrepreneurs.
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The way the situation is currently developing, it won't be long before we see new entrepreneurial hubs emerge from these developing regions. For investors, these five cities are worth keeping a close eye on.
1. Manila, the Philippines.
The Philippines’ youthful population, high urbanisation rate and advanced digital development make it a popular choice for startups, SMEs and larger corporations. The likes of IBM, HP, BlackBerry and Google have already set up shop in Manila, attracting investors and entrepreneurs to the city.
In fact, only last year, the Facebook’s internet.org chose the Philippines as a location for its pilot projects. This is fitting, as around 94 per cent of the Philippines’ internet users are on the social media site. As the country’s economy gains speed, I am confident more investors will turn their attention to the capital of this up and coming country.
2. Amman, Jordan.
Across the Middle East, entrepreneurship is on the rise. Amman, the capital city of Jordan, is the leading startup hub in the region. Trying to fill its natural resources gap with human capital, the government has invested in infrastructure, education and also reformed regulations.
This means Jordan is now one of the easiest and cheapest regions to register a business. In addition, the country boasts strong internet connectivity, and high-calibre universities producing many young, highly skilled entrepreneurs. These developments, coupled with the high rate of urbanisation, are driving innovation and turning Jordan into a desirable location for tech startups to set up roots.
3. Lahore, Pakistan.
Since 2012 there has been a massive shift in the Pakistani startup scene. Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad – the three major cities – have become the base of many new startups in Pakistan.
Lahore, the country's second-largest city, is especially interesting because of its urban development, which has added industrial areas, a new university campus and an airport to the cityscape. The strong infrastructure has helped to create a dynamic market for tech startups.
With the young population of the country – two-thirds are under 30 – as well as strong support from the government, Lahore has potential to be one of the most innovative startup hubs in the world. Big companies like Microsoft already have their eye on the country, with the tech giant having hosted a Windows phone hackathon in Lahore in 2013.
4. Jakarta, Indonesia.
The largest city of Indonesia, Jakarta is also known as one of the biggest megacities in the world. One skyscraper after the other keeps rising into the skyline of this metropolis, highlighting the huge demand for space.
The country’s growing middle class keeps flocking into the city, bringing with it a strong purchasing power, high penetration of mobile phones and an enormous demand for online services. Altogether, this presents plenty of opportunities for new business ideas.
The outcome is a strong market for tech startups to explore, and consequently more Indonesian investors including Merah Putih Incubator, GDP Venture, East Ventures and GREE Ventures are entering the market. Solving the upcoming challenges caused by the city’s fast growth means startups have to be practical and financially stable. For this reason, Jakarta is already home to a number of startups focusing on travel, e-commerce and lifestyle.
5. Lagos, Nigeria.
Nigeria has taken the lead as the largest economy in Africa. Lagos, the most populous city with over 20 million people, illustrates the country’s strong economic development. It is the second fastest growing city in Africa and the seventh in the world.
One reason for its success over the past decades is the fast growing tech startup scene, especially in Yaba, a suburb in the port of Lagos. Residents have even nicknamed the area Yabacon Valley because of its likeness to Silicon Valley. Yaba is a unique place for high-tech innovation and development, buoyed by the country’s growth, the middle-class affinity towards technology and massive online population of 45m internet users.