In addition to creating its “Silicon Valley”, Kenya is launching a program called “Ajira” to create 1 million jobs in digital for youth. Initiated in 2008 but under construction since 2013, the Konza Technology City, or “Silicon Savannah”, flagship project of the vision Kenya 2030, wants to be the showcase of the Kenya of tomorrow, innovative and high tech.

 

60 kilometers from Nairobi, on the road to Mombassa. Approaching the site, we still do not see much if not the extent of the land on which the future Konza Technology City (KTC) should be erected. After having crossed the gate and realized a few more kilometers, the outlines of a building are outlined. The workers are working on the latest developments. “We are in the heart of Konza city. A 2,000-hectare site All buildings in Konza must be built on the model of this building, Technopolis, built in the heart of the site, and fully controlled by the NTICS. For access to water, energy, everything. A book that is also entirely green, “explains Annah Musyimi, Project Director at the Konza Technolopolis Development Authority. Then she continues: “We operate with solar energy because it is renewable. For water, we have implemented a system to control its flow and automatically stop the tap after consumption to avoid waste. Finally, our carbon emissions are regulated and controlled from a control center that records our carbon emissions in a database. It is a project resolutely turned towards ecology. We meet all environmental standards. This helps to fight against energy waste, “she says. “I designed all the plans of this building,” she slips proudly. On 8 floors, the building provides parking in its basement, a panoramic restaurant on the top floor, and between the two must settle high tech companies.

 

A smart city

Started two years ago, construction is expected to be completed this year, in November 2018. By then, project promoters must attract the companies that will participate to make this site a digital hub. And that day, John Tanui, CEO of Konza Technopolis Development Authority, project leader, and his team made the site visit a delegation of Huawei. Objective, convince them to take part in the project. “We are here on the Savannah site, a new city where people will live and work. A smart city. This is indeed the idea: a new city entirely dedicated to technology, with start-ups, offices, universities but also housing.

The flagship project of the Kenya 2030 vision, Konza City wants to be the showcase. “The development of Vision 2030 is a project that integrates a global vision of development. Konza city will contribute by adding value through technology and innovation to transform our country. Sectors such as agriculture and services will be boosted by technology, “says Tanui.

To achieve this, the designers of the project were inspired by that of the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina in the United States “who participated with Silicon Valley and the transformation of the US economy into a global economy,” stresses the CEO. “We are also working on the construction of a university specialized in research. With support from the Korean government and Korean universities including the Korea Institute of Science and Technology. They help us to set up a similar institute here, “he says, adding that soon,” we are going to talk about financing, design processes and we are going to start building the university. ”

 

Government facilitates but development must come to 90% of private

The visit continues. Between drill and sander, the delegation of Huawei, observes, listens, silent. “We have been invited to participate in the construction of the KTC,” explains Joseph Lei Lei of Huawei Technology in Kenya. Konza is destined to become an industrial technology park and Huawei is a telecommunications company specialized in data centers and this type of solutions. Huawei wants to cooperate with Konza and contribute to the development of the country and its technology industry. The Chinese company is already involved in the Konza project. “We have been doing a lot of work here since 2015 and we are here to oversee the work on the project design. But now the Kenyan state expects more from its partner, a financial investment. If Joseph Lei Lei will not advance any figure, for John Tanui the stake is clear. “The approach adopted at Konza is new, we are not used to working like this in Kenya. The government facilitates access to the area, infrastructure, energy, water, but the development must come to 90% of the private sector, “the CEO told us on the sidelines of the visit.

Valued at $ 400 million, the site awaits investors to move from a virtual stage to its materialization. And according to the CEO, the interest is indeed there. “We are in discussion with some potential partners. We work with local high-tech companies or those located in our territory like Huawei, Cisco, IBM, Microsoft. We engaged in discussions to try to determine the conditions on which we could work together. They are all very interested in building a national data center and know the potential, “he explains.

 

200,000 jobs need to be created by 2030

Knowing that Kenya already serves as a digital hub. I Hub, M-Pesa or Safaricom have helped to position it on the map of the most advanced countries in the field in Africa. But with Konza, the ambition is stronger. “Kenya has made a lot of progress in terms of infrastructure for building smart and connected cities. You have good penetration of telecommunications networks as M-Pesa demonstrates. These advances have made Kenya a leading country in the region, but Konza’s role is to provide excellence. Now Kenya has to follow the example of the North Carolina Institute or the South Korea Institute. For that, we have the support of the leaders of our country because they know the contribution that Konza will make to our economy, innovation and employment. ”

For the latter, in addition to contributing 2% of GDP, 200,000 jobs are to be created by 2030 through KTC. A major challenge for a country with high youth unemployment (17% according to the World Bank). Determined to eradicate the problem by leveraging technology, the Kenyan government has created a program, Ajira (Swahili Employment), to create one million digital jobs for young Kenyans to become cyberentrepreneurs in a few months …

In the meantime, another equally ambitious project is coming out of the ground. Kigali Innovation city, another digital city also intended to welcome the world leaders of the sector, an incubator, an American university … and to transform the Rwandan capital into a true regional digital hub. The race for innovation is more than launched between Kenya and Rwanda …

Le Point Afrique

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