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In what it is expecting to be a boon for mobile development across the region,mLab Southern Africa — which is positioning itself as Southern Africa’s new incubator for mobile entrepreneurs and innovators — has announced that applications for membership of the lab are now open.
The lab, which is to be situated at The Innovation Hub in Pretoria, will be officially opened on 15 September.
mLab intends to provide support to mobile developers and entrepreneurs through a number of services. In a statement, mLab says that these services will include:
“subsidised office space with meeting rooms – to allow members to benefit from being part of the mobile startup community; training and accreditation on mobile technologies and entrepreneurship; business mentoring and coaching; business intelligence, such as privileged access to market research information and knowledge repositories; testing of mobile apps and services in dedicated test bays; and organising regular events for networking and knowledge sharing”.
It is also intended that the lab will aid members in getting financial assistance via “grants, seed capital, angel investors or venture capitalists”.
The Southern African mLab follows on the back of a similar, successful project in Nairobi, Kenya .
While the Southern African head office will be in Pretoria, mLab claims that there will be a number of satellite offices, the first of which is planned for Cape Town.
mlab states that the decision to locate the lab in Southern Africa was made based on “the enormous potential of mobile technologies for supporting business development, social development and job creation in the region”.
This potential stems from the high mobile penetration in the region and in South Africa in particular, where a large portion of the population also browse via their mobile devices.
“Mobile phones touch almost every aspect of peoples’ lives, and the potential for improving areas such as healthcare and education has already been successfully demonstrated,” mLab says.
mLab does, however, acknowledge that the region offers a number of unique challenges, particularly regarding sustainability.
“Competition is stiff; the mobile landscape is highly uneven across different technologies, user groups and countries; and mobile developers are scarce and expensive,” the lab says.
mLab is looking to position itself alongside the likes of Google’s Cape Town-based tech incubator, Umbono.
The lab is part of a wider project which has the backing of the Creating Sustainable Businesses in the Knowledge Economy programme, supported by infoDev (World Bank), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Finland and Nokia.
mLab Southern Africa has additional backing from the South African Department of Science and Technology.