It's my opinon that it would be wise to separate an incubator from a hub.
We run a remote internship programme for coders called the HNG internship. 1000s of Nigerian attend each time we do it, and it's all remote. One thing I observed is that the people who were working from a hub were performing better than those not.
It's not rocket science - the hubs gave them space, internet and power, as well as community to discuss and solve challenges. That support structure helps them become successfull at things like the internship.
So hubs work, right? They may work at that, but one thing they have been bad at in Africa so far is producing successful companies. Most tech companies doing well in African countries did not originate from hubs or incubators.
What I am proposing as a perhaps way to fix this is to separate the idea of a hub from that of an incubator. I am defining incubator here as some kind of system designed to get a startup from nothing to something, where 'something' represents a viable stage of the business.
I believe that when a hub becomes an incubator, it changes its own nature into something that makes startups fail. I think that hubs need to be places (particularly in africa) where the infrastructure to test ideas is provided, without those ideas being influenced or changed by the people operating the hub. Because most of the time, the people running hubs are experts in building hubs, not in building businesses.
I now believe that we should layer incubation on top of, and separate from the hub. So if there are 10 people in the hub, they could be part of 3 to 5 different incubation programmes. For example, one could be incubated by a travel incubation programme, another blockchain, another in the FMCG business. That way, the incubation is specific to the needs of the company.
But is incubation even neccessary? In Africa, yes. We have an education deficit, and incubation is a way of accelerating the education of people - I just believe that we have been doing incubation wrong, and that's why it's not working out too well.