Celebrating A Decade Of Innovation And Entrepreneurship: Cortex Hub And Angel Fair Africa

By Andile Ngcaba

In a landscape defined by the ebb and flow of African entrepreneurship, milestones are more than mere time markers; they stand as beacons of progress. This year, we gather to celebrate an extraordinary achievement as both The Cortex Hub and Angel Fair Africa reach the impressive milestone of a decade. A decade of unwavering dedication to nurturing innovation, fostering entrepreneurship, and linking visionary African startups with investors.

A decade ago, the importance of establishing an innovation hub within a culturally rich and historically significant region like the Eastern Cape became evident to me. My journey in the ICT field, spanning from the apartheid era during my exile, underscored the need to drive technological advancement and economic empowerment in this historically underserved area. With its untapped potential and a history of limited economic opportunities, the Eastern Cape offered a unique canvas upon which to paint a brighter future. The creation of The Cortex Hub within this context aimed to unlock the latent potential of the Eastern Cape’s emerging talent pool, providing them with tools and resources to drive technological innovation, foster entrepreneurship, and break down barriers hindering their growth. This initiative was also a way of giving back to the community that had profoundly influenced my journey. It aimed to build a platform that would empower future generations to flourish and, in doing so, contribute to progress not just within South Africa but across the entire African continent. This endeavour transformed adversity into advantage, utilising technology to uplift marginalised communities and position the Eastern Cape as a beacon of innovation and progress in the modern digital age. A decade later, The Cortex Hub is a sanctuary for brilliant minds, a crucible for incubating impactful solutions, and a driving force for catalysing profound social change.

Angel Fair Africa (AfA), on the other hand, has played a pivotal role in connecting entrepreneurs with angel investors who believe in their aspirations. Co-founded by Eric Osiakwan, myself and others in September 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa, AfA emerged as the flagship angel investing event on the African continent. Its roots trace even further—to May 2013—when a group of 26 entrepreneurs, Eric and I launched Angel Africa List (AAL) at the InfoDEV (World Bank) innovation summit in East London. This marked the birth of Africa’s first angel investing network, setting the stage for AfA.

The journey from AAL to AfA was transformative. On September 26, 2013, AfA was officially launched at the Sandton Convention Centre. This occasion allowed 25 entrepreneurs to pitch their innovative ideas to a room with 42 investors. In the spirit of entrepreneurship, three deals were sealed right there on the spot. Since its inception, AfA embarked on a continent-wide journey, leaving a legacy of entrepreneurial empowerment in various African nations. It touched down in Nigeria (2014), Ghana (2015), Kenya (2016), Côte d’Ivoire (2017), Tanzania (2018), and Mozambique (2019). Despite the challenges posed by the global pandemic 2020, AfA adapted and hosted a virtual event in Senegal, ensuring that the flame of entrepreneurship continued to burn brightly.

Considering the intertwined histories of AfA and The Cortex Hub, it’s only fitting that their remarkable 10-year journeys are celebrated under a single banner hosted at The Cortex Hub. This upcoming commemoration promises to be a harmonious fusion of the visionary strength of AfA and the nurturing environment of The Cortex Hub—where ground-breaking ideas are nurtured and transformed into impactful ventures. Set against the vibrant backdrop of East London, South Africa, from November 27 to December 3, 2023 this event pledges to stand as a tribute to the enduring “Triumph of Entrepreneurship in Africa.”

In a continent where access to funding has historically challenged startups, AfA shines as a guiding light. It vividly demonstrates that African entrepreneurs can transcend geographic limitations, making substantial contributions to their communities and the global landscape with the right platform and connections. Simultaneously, The Cortex Hub embodies the essence of African innovation, serving as a nurturing crucible for socially conscious startups. As we mark this remarkable milestone, we must acknowledge the broader significance of our journey. Challenges and triumphs, setbacks and successes have characterised the past decade. It’s a testament to the resilience, tenacity, and unwavering spirit of African entrepreneurs who defy limitations.

Looking ahead to the next decade, excitement and anticipation fill the air. The African entrepreneurial landscape continues to evolve dynamically, offering boundless opportunities. With The Cortex Hub and AfA steadfastly leading this transformative movement, we hold unwavering confidence that the next decade will yield even more profound and far-reaching impacts. The 10th anniversaries of The Cortex Hub and Angel Fair Africa symbolise the passage of time and a tribute to the indomitable spirit of African entrepreneurship, marked by resilience and unwavering determination. These milestones are a poignant reminder that the convergence of innovation, investment, and social impact holds limitless potential. Here’s to a future where African startups continue to shine, leaving an enduring legacy of positive and transformative change.

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