SISTEM one-on-one from Barcelona, Spain with Ms. Vanessa Sans, Project Manager of Coworking Africa Conference.
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Why the US & Why Africa

SISTEM one-on-one from Barcelona, Spain with Ms. Vanessa Sans, Project Manager of Coworking Africa Conference.

Vanessa Sans

Vanessa Sans is a coworking activist and project manager with a passion for innovative working models. She runs Happy Working, an agency based in Barcelona which provides consultancy to coworking spaces and organizes events for professional communities. Vanessa is the project manager of Coworking Europe since 2013. She also works on the Coworking Africa, Coworking Spain and Social Workplace conferences. She founded transforma bcn, a coworking space focused on the social and cultural change.

Q:     Please tell us about yourself and the path you have taken to Coworking Africa.

I joined the coworking movement in 2011, and since then I have become a coworking activist with a passion for innovative work models. Today, I’m the project manager of Global Enterprise, which organizes Coworking Europe, Coworking Africa and also the Social Workplace conferences. I’m also the co-organizer of the Coworking Spain conference. In addition to work, I also have a personal project, which is Happy Working, an agency based in Barcelona providing consultancy to coworking spaces. We also organize events for professional communities.

Q:     Tell us about the Coworking Africa: Who created it and why? What services and programs do you offer? And who do you serve?

Jean-Yves Huwart is the founder of Global Enterprise and also the initiator of the coworking conferences. Coworking Africa actually exists thanks to an accidental conversation on Twitter. We got in touch with Lizelle van Rhyn, who is the founder of Cape Town Office, a coworking peer based in South Africa. They suggested that we organize a similar conference to the Coworking Europe conference, but one that catered to the African continent. For us, the proposition was exciting. So we launched the Coworking Africa conference project in July 2015.

The conference offers a unique opportunity to show the latest trends in the coworking industry, as well as success stories and best practices. It is a 2-day conference filled with inspiring talks, panels, and a participative workshop where attendees propose and facilitate the topics they want to discuss. The conference aims to be a platform where we can share knowledge, and also aims to bring the emergence of personal relationships between the leaders of coworking collaborative spaces from all over the continent. We hope to support the development of coworking awareness as well as connecting communities around Africa and around the world.

The audience of the conference is expected to be comprised of coworking space operators, startup accelerators, digital infrastructure builders, real estate pundits, NGO’s, universities, and incubator managers from Africa and beyond.

Q:    Can you please share a few words about your Cowoking Ambassadors and your conference, Coworking Africa 2015?

The first Coworking Africa conference was organized last July in Cape Town at the Workshop 17 space. It was a great success! There were about 75 people who showed up, and one third of the audience came from outside South Africa, with delegates from more than 15 countries and 4 continents.

We are proud of our ambassadors; some of them who are coworking pioneers in Africa, for all their support and help they gave us to spread the coworking word across the continent and beyond. We would like to give big thanks to Afrilabs, GCUC, Jokkolabs, CoworkLab Maputo, District, Daddy.O, Jozihub and The Common Room, and the whole coworking community.

The next Coworking Africa event will be hosted at The Design Bank in Cape Town next Friday 5th February.

 We hope to continue the conversation and also contributing knowledge to the growing coworking movement.

Q:     How can we increase the STEM and entrepreneurship participation throughout Africa?

Africa is one of the fastest growing economies. There are over 100 million people active on social media and very much in tune with digital trends, thus the continent is experimenting a booming tech scene and the major demographic shifts are contributing to the opening of many collaborative spaces across the continent. More than 250 active spaces are in operation, which include tech-hubs, business incubators, and startup accelerators, in addition to many businesses, universities and development agencies that are now working from coworking spaces.

Increasing the number of collaborative spaces that offer proper conditions and developed infrastructure for the coworking space owners will help to increase the STEM and entrepreneurship participation in Africa. Nowhere in the world is the tech scene more important than it is in Africa, and coworking spaces are the bedrock of various local ecosystems comprised of entrepreneurs who are shaping the future of modern, digital friendly tech-savvy economies.

Q:     In your opinion what is the importance of STEM education, innovation, entrepreneurship, investment, infrastructures and the rule of law in Africa' s socio-economic development?

I think that all of them are key to the rule of law in Africa’s socio-economic development, but it is highly important to face the critical issues they must overcome, like lack of quality infrastructure and good internet connectivity. Concerning coworking spaces, they provide a solution to some of these obstacles, like connectivity and infrastructure, while also physically supporting the development of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem that is connected to other communities in Africa and in the rest of the world. 

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