Long-standing infrastructural development challenges continue to be the main reason behind Kenya's imbalanced distribution of innovation hubs, new research shows.
According to the Mapping, the Innovation Ecosystem in Kenya Report, almost all the innovation hubs in the country are located in Nairobi.
These include speed-speed broadband connection, access to internet and electricity, data centres, ICT capabilities, test centres and labs.
"There is evidence of disparity in the distribution of hubs in the country. Out of 148 hubs mapped, 68 (46 per cent) are in Nairobi," says the report jointly produced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Konza Technopolis Development Authority (KoTDA), the African Centre for Technology Studies and the Association of Countrywide Innovation Hubs.
"Indeed, the top nine counties - Nairobi, Mombasa, Uasin Gishu, Kisumu, Nakuru, Nyeri, Machakos, Garissa and Kiambu - account for 74 per cent of the total hubs in Kenya. The remaining 30 counties have between one and three hubs. This is a disadvantage for innovators in these counties with fewer hubs."
UNDP Kenya Resident Representative Anthony Ngororano pointed out that infrastructure, funding, skills gap and gender disparity are some of the issues that stakeholders across the board need to address.
"The relevance of a robust innovation ecosystem to a country's economy cannot be gainsaid. A vibrant and enabling innovation ecosystem facilitates the emergence and growth of businesses and is evidenced by the presence and fluidity of ideas and solutions," said Ngororano at the report's launch in Nairobi.
KOTDA Chief Executive John Tanui, now Principal Secretary in the State Dept for ICT and Digital Economy said the report provides a timely data-driven approach that calls for increased connectivity and collaboration of relevant stakeholders in driving innovation to transform the Kenyan economy.
"We have noted several challenges affecting the innovation ecosystem among them commercialisation of innovations, low investment in technology, low number of people in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), uncoordinated innovation pipeline, human resource development challenges and limited government support."
UNDP Head of Exploration Caroline Kiarie said promoting women innovators and creating innovations that meet their needs will accelerate Kenya's innovation ecosystem.
"We need to work together to create an environment that allows the youth and women to thrive. Women empowerment in the innovation space should not be a cliche. Data has proven that they face several barriers that they must overcome to succeed in business," said Ms Kiarie.