Business incubators and entrepreneurship development in Africa’s innovation systems: a bibliometric review

Working Paper
Published on 9 February 2023


Business incubators are a policy tool for spurring and supporting entrepreneurial businesses. In recent years, many African countries have established many of them. Business incubators in Africa have received some attention in the academic literature but there are no systematic analyses of the body of evidence to help researchers make sense of what we already know and what remains to be known. Herein lays the purpose of this paper. Using standard bibliometric methods, this paper reviews the state of the art of the research in this area and identifies the gaps for future research. The analyses highlight the five major themes in the research literature on incubators in Africa: incubator types and support for different business types; incubator performance in fostering innovation and capability building; impact of incubators on businesses and the economy; role of incubators in supporting emergence and growth of start-ups; and incubators as enablers of firm-level learning. Some remaining gaps in the literature are identified. First, limited evidence exists on how to improve incubator support to businesses across sectors and countries. Second, barely any evidence exists on how to design and implement adaptive, responsive and inclusive incubation systems. Third, rigorous impact evaluations are conspicuously missing from the reviewed body of research. These gaps represent opportunities for future studies.


Abiodun Egbetokun

De Montfort University