Ruto secures Korea funding for Kenya’s delayed Konza tech city

Thursday November 24 2022
William Ruto and President Yoon Suk-yeol

Kenya’s President William Ruto with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol during his three-day tour of the east Asia country. PHOTO | PCS


Kenya’s President William Ruto on Wednesday secured a $1 billion funding from South Korea to help set up a smart city at Konza, some 60km south east of Nairobi.

The announcement came after Ruto met with Korean leader Yoon Suk-yeol in Seoul where he has been on a three-day official visit since Tuesday.

The Koreans also pledged to help build the Nairobi Intelligent Transport System and Bus Rapid Transit, two of Kenya’s projects mooted earlier but which have not taken shape.

A statement from State House said the Korean money will fund “various projects” in agriculture, ICT, health, energy, infrastructure, education and affordable housing. A huge chunk of it will go to the Konza city project.

It will be channelled through the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), which means Seoul will send its own expertise to work on the project as well as gradually transfer the technology to Kenyans.

Vision 2030 flagship project


Konza Technopolis project was launched in 2008 during the era of former president Mwai Kibaki and is meant to be a flagship of Vision 2030. It has struggled over the years to secure adequate investor funding to be completed, as well as some legal fights in court of misappropriation of money in purchase of the land where it is to be built.

The tech city was supposed to be some sort of ‘African Silicon Valley’ with self-sufficient amenities including energy and ICT services. The Koreans are supposed to push it to the very end by bringing their money and expertise. They are supposed to build the Kenya Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, mimicking the Korean Advanced Institute of Science & Technology.

Under a bilateral deal signed on Wednesday, the Koreans will also help develop the Sagana Industrial Park, invest in Dongo Kundu, Athi River and Naivasha Special Economic Zone and local agro-processing for tea and avocados and construction of dams, and “an export promotion zone dedicated to pharmaceutical manufacturing, vaccine production and value addition in agriculture”.

“We are committed to implementing strategies to increase farm productivity and seek your government’s support for agricultural mechanisation as well as cooperation in research and technological innovation,” Ruto said at the meeting.

Funding shortage

The Naivasha economic zone, first mooted under President Uhuru Kenyatta, has been largely a sleepy idea owing to funding shortage and the fact that the original plan to develop a dry port nearby faced uncertainty when President Ruto reversed an order for the compulsory SGR transportation of cargo. State House did not provide details of how the zone will be developed this time.

President Ruto has used his tour in South Korea, a first for a Kenyan head of state in 32 years, to market Kenya “as a suitable investment destination for foreign investors”.

“Kenya is keen on expanding economic ties with the East Asian nation and exploring areas of cooperation, especially in ICT, education, pharmaceutical and infrastructure,” said a dispatch from State House, Nairobi on Tuesday.

Earlier, Ruto met with Korean Speaker of Parliament Kim Jin-pyo where he called for friendlier laws to encourage business.