Ruto's US visit affirms Kenya's place as Africa's Tech hub

President William Ruto and the President of the United States of America Joe Biden hold talks at the White House, Washington, D.C. on May 23, 2024. [PCS, Standard]  

President William Ruto raised Kenya’s profile with his state visit to the United States of America.  Dr Ruto, consistent with his commitment to transform the economy through digitization, showcased Kenya as hub of technology and commerce in Eastern Africa.

Kenya is known as the Silicon Savannah – thriving in innovation and teeming with youthful talent that has created economic opportunities and jobs through the over $1 billion worth of startup companies spread across the country but predominantly in Nairobi.

The visit firmly thrusts Kenya into the frontline as a leading tech light for Africa. We at Konza  Technopolis were excited that our finest hour had arrived - that much of the Silicon Savannah opportunities will be harnessed through  Konza Technopolis a Vision 2030  project that is at the forefront of delivering the ambitious vision of transforming Kenya to a knowledge-based economy.

Conceived as a key flagship project of Kenya’s Vision 2030, Konza Technopolis is established as a Sustainable, science park. An arena of innovation in a smart city equipped with world-class infrastructure to enable research, science, technology, and innovation all in a single work-and-play environment.

Konza Technopolis is further developed as an economic hub for the core sectors of ICT, Life sciences and Innovation and is a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) envisioned to attract over Sh1.5 trillion in investments contributing at least 2 per cent of national GDP through a vibrant mix of businesses, workers, residents, and urban amenities.

Anchored by a physical centre to serve as a major hub for the envisioned smart city, we aim to bring the Silicon Savannah to life through a cluster ecosystem and provide a space that facilitates knowledge spillovers among firms, academic researchers, and related enterprises. We are providing the platform for creators, innovators, and industry to collaborate, so Kenya becomes that one cluster initiative with a robust and regenerating ecosystem which produces the innovation, talent, and economic opportunities that firms need to thrive.

Globally, the Silicon Valley success, Korea innovative ecosystem, Singapore startup hub, Shenzhen innovation area in China, and elsewhere in the Asia Pacific affirms that the strongest cluster initiatives are mostly private sector-driven, but government-funded and supported. New advances in technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), and generative AI (gen AI) will require significant investments. Already slow adopters have accepted that AI will become universal and an everyday tool.

Konza Technopolis has set a strong foundation for research science, technology and innovation and commercialization of knowledge-based capital.  We have invested in state-of-the-art infrastructure including tier three, an uptime-certified data centre, the largest energy plant, smart water, solid waste management systems,  and smart city infrastructure for investors and investments at Konza.

With Two universities (The Open University of Kenya and the Kenya Advanced Institute of Science and Technology already in place and a third University on its way to establish its presence, the city is now in an accelerated growth phase.

These investments present a place and a platform that is ready to provide solutions for the world’s most pressing needs of our time. We believe this can happen when we merge our efforts, and progress made so far with those of private sector players, who will benefit by working collectively to fill gaps in the cluster ecosystem, including the finances needed to fund these technologies in addition to industry expertise and a collaborative mentality.

While Konza Technopolis can be considered Kenya’s public technology vanguard of Research & Development, industry and commerce, innovation, digital skills, and enterprise support platform, it stands on the shoulders of trailblazers who provide inspiration and confidence that the Silicon Savannah dream is within our reach.

We have seen this in the many innovations coming out of Kenyan innovators while solving complex problems locally and getting scaled globally. These early successes of cluster ecosystems affirm Dr Ruto’s pitch that Kenya has the necessary ingredients –  both infrastructure and people – to become eastern Africa’s technology hub with Konza Technopolis at the centre.

Mr Okwiri is the Chief Executive Officer of Konza Technology Development Authority (KoTDA)