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Inside Silicon Savannah, a dream coming true

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Artist’s impression of the Konza Techno City Pavilion. Photo/Courtesy of KOTDA

Artist’s impression of the Konza Techno City Pavilion. Photo/Courtesy of KOTDA 

By JOINT REPORT The EastAfrican

Posted  Saturday, January 26   2013 at  18:15

In Summary

  • Kenya’s Silicon Savannah dream is finally coming true, with the 250-300 acres of Phase One allocated to various sectors, architectural designs for the landmark building (Konza Techno City Pavilion) complete and a number of investors waiting to break ground.
  • Sitting on 5,000 acres spread across Makueni and Machakos counties, 60km southeast of the Nairobi, the smart city will be built in four five-year phases under a public-private-partnership financing model.

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Kenya, keen to entrench its role as East Africa’s business hub, has moved to jump-start a $10 billion technopolis, potentially transforming global investment flows and opening up lucrative opportunities and commercial benefits for investors in the region.

Kenya’s Silicon Savannah dream is finally coming true, with the 250-300 acres of Phase One allocated to various sectors, architectural designs for the landmark building (Konza Techno City Pavilion) complete and a number of investors waiting to break ground.

At the same time, the newly named Konza Technopolis Development Authority (KOTDA), which will oversee the operations of the “smart city,” says it is working on a suitable model to enable thousands of individuals and small companies to invest in the project and own a slice of Konza.

Sitting on 5,000 acres spread across Makueni and Machakos counties, 60km southeast of the Nairobi, the smart city will be built in four five-year phases under a public-private-partnership financing model.

The government of Kenya revised the project from just an ICT Park to a technology city, widening the scope for investors to include light manufacturing and research services.

Already, 15 firms and institutions have expressed interest in the first phase of the project. Several other investors, who had adopted a “wait-and-see” attitude, are expected to come on board following the unveiling of Konza Techno City by President Mwai Kibaki on January 23.

“Konza will become a game-changer in Kenya’s socio-economic development, spurring massive trade and investment across the entire region. It will turn Kenya into an ICT hub for the East African region in the coming years,” President Kibaki told investors at the groundbreaking ceremony at the site.

The techno city is expected to boost the local business process outsourcing (BPO) sector and propel growth in the provision of Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES) for export to the region and the rest of the world.

Currently, Kenya and the entire region have not fulfilled their potential in BPO and ITES. The development of Konza is part of the government’s ambitious plan to catalyse development in the ICT industry to catch up with top ICT giants such as India, Mauritius and South Africa.

Upon completion, Konza city is expected to create over 200,000 jobs and create an enabling environment for world-class research, education and business to encourage innovation. Phase One will create about 18,000 jobs.

According to Dr Catherine Adeya, acting chief executive of KOTDA, the investors have been divided into three categories: Anchor tenants – those who are ready to start construction; middle category – the wait-and-see group that wants to invest but is not so sure about the outcome of the March 4 General Election; and the third category – people who have the expertise, but do not have the financial backing.

“We might want to match-make in some cases, or see how to support some of these groups,” she said.

Lease agreements for the anchor tenants have been drawn up, but are awaiting review and approval by the Attorney-General.

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