Is Nairobi Set to Be the Tech Capital of Africa?
When you think about the world’s tech hubs often the first place that comes to mind is California’s Silicon Valley. After all, this is where all the true giants of the sector started out and continue to thrive. But, thousands of miles away in East Africa, there’s another exciting center for tech development that is going from strength to strength.
The tech industry in Kenya has been steadily on the rise since 2012 and has been receiving more and more inward investment to support the burgeoning sector. To date, it’s estimated that there has been a total of around $150 million investment from other countries, in addition to all the support given by the government.
The industry is focused on an area in Nairobi which has been dubbed “the Silicon Savannah”. This has rapidly grown to be the biggest of around 50 tech hubs in the country in which 200 businesses – a number that’s growing – are starting to make a real impact.
Unsurprisingly, the Kenyan government sees the tech boom as a perfect opportunity to both boost the economy and create more opportunities for Kenyan workers in the sector. At the moment, the focus is on controlling the influence of businesses from the rest of the world who aim to harness the potential of the country’s tech boom by setting up in Kenya. Therefore, a law is being proposed that any foreign tech business operating in the country should be at least 30% Kenyan-owned. There is also a stated aim to give Kenyan-owned and run businesses preferential treatment when tendering for contracts.
The businesses that are succeeding
The sort of businesses that are thriving in the sector range from mobile communications providers helping to connect more parts of the country to ones that are harnessing technology to provide clean, sustainable energy. It also provides great opportunities for businesses in other new and emerging sectors to set up and flourish. One example would be online casino operators who rely heavily on tech for their businesses. With many online casinos already available for players in South Africa and accessed through sites like Casinos.co.za, it would make perfect sense for others to set up in Kenya where the skills exist to build sites featuring the sorts of games and bonuses designed to attract new players.
The roots of the boom
Looking into the reasons behind just why Kenya has led the way in the African tech-boom, these are three-fold. The first has been the wholehearted support of the government. In 2009 they agreed to invest in TEAMS, an undersea fiber cable network that meant the country led the way in ultra-fast broadband speeds. Then there was the inspiration of the M-Pesa money transfer system launched by Vodaphone in the country that showed the possibilities of tech and inspired countless entrepreneurs to become involved. Finally, Kenya is a young country – 62% of the population is under the age of 24 so there is a ready and able workforce eager to take on the challenges of the new tech age.
The future’s bright
Looking to the future, this is brighter still. It was announced that Kenya will be one of the leading countries involved in the UK’s Go Global Africa initiative. Run by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, this aims to bring together links between tech firms in the two countries for mutual benefit.
So it’s widely anticipated that this, along with the natural vibrancy of the sector, will soon see it as a $1 billion industry contributing far more than its current 11% to the economy. And, just maybe, one day Silicon Savannah could lead not just Africa, but the whole world.