Design Foundations helped ATBN explore the opportunity of a technology ecosystem accelerator in Africa

Posted on: 22/07/2019

Receiving Design Foundations funding was transformational for ATBN.


Africa Technology Business Network (ATBN) is a social enterprise working to support African technology entrepreneurs by connecting them to global networks and resources.


Driven by the rapid rise of mobile and internet connectivity, Africa is now one of the fastest growing technology markets in the world. This has opened up new exciting market opportunities in the region and is attracting global investor interest. It is estimated that over $700 million was invested into Africa technology startups in 2018. *


ATBN’s vision for their Design Foundations project – the UK-Africa Africa Digital Innovation Hub –  was to create an online digital resource and networking hub to connect UK investors and businesses with promising technology opportunities across Africa.  Before they could scope the digital hub, they needed to better understand the needs and challenges of their target groups.


ATBN applied to Design Foundations with the objective of meeting with tech ecosystem stakeholders in the UK, Ghana and Kenya to identify the current gaps in order to design an effective platform that would drive engagement and facilitate knowledge sharing between UK investors, industry experts and African entrepreneurs. The funding allowed ATBN to research and define the problem, test their assumptions and co-design their solution with key stakeholders.

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Stav Bar-Shany, Head of Impact at ATBN.

“Receiving Design Foundations funding was transformational for us.  It gave us the ability to thoroughly research our assumptions,  identify the root cause of existing challenges and helped us validate some ideas as well as negate others.  We got the opportunity to sit down with UK investors and understand their specific requirements.  We also found the process with KTN and Innovate UK was refreshing as it helped us become more comfortable with the uncertainty as they actively encouraged us to share our learnings along the way both on a 1:1 basis and via events such as KTN’s Breakthrough Innovation in 2017.”

Stav Bar-Shany, Head of Impact at ATBN.


ATBN’s findings led them to understand that in addition to a platform, a comprehensive programme was needed to build a sustainable pipeline of investment-ready opportunities for the digital hub. As a result, they designed a programme centred around equipping African tech hubs to better support startups and be effective intermediaries for global investors looking to invest in the region.  As next steps, ATBN has plans to pilot the programme starting with four hubs in Kenya and Ghana and are seeking funding to implement it. Stav Bar-Shany concluded:


“At the end of the Design Foundations funding we had a fully designed project, established a robust network of collaboration partners, and collated data and insights which better informed our understanding of the problem we were trying to solve.  Our thinking evolved from simply looking at building a digital hub to creating a sustainable way to generate mutually beneficial opportunities for UK and African businesses, investors and entrepreneurs through a robust tech support ecosystem.

From our findings, we also created a report with recommendations for a more impactful approach to investing in the African technology sector.  The funding we received has therefore not only benefited our organisation but our partners and stakeholders as well”.


To find out more about Design Foundations, contact our Design team, and read more about their work on Design Foundations.

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Funding Opportunity

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Demonstrate Impact Programme has integrated a human-centred design into its scope and has been recognised in successfully delivering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Innovate UK will invest up to £9.3 million in innovation projects with impact. The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) will hold a series of UK-wide briefing events across the UK throughout September.  Register to attend one of these events here.

Find out more about the GCRF programme here.


*Quartz Africa. “Startup investment in Africa jumped to record levels in 2018 as later stage rounds rose”. Accessed Online June 2019.

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