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Kenya’s Silicon Valley in the Savannah gets $100 million dollar injection from Microsoft

Hinamundi Collins

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Kenya’s Silicon Valley in the Savannah gets $100 million dollar injection from Microsoft

NAIROBI: Grandiose plans, red tape and a consistent lack of funding have left Konza Technopolis — the $14.5 billion Silicon Valley in the Savannah city to be built some 60 km southeast of Nairobi — way behind schedule on its goal of having 20,000 people on site by 2020.

Dubbed the Silicon Savannah, Konza aims to become a smart city — using tech to manage water and electricity efficiently and reduce commuting time — and a solution to the rapid, unplanned urbanization which has plagued existing cities.

Konza’s dream is to become a top business process outsourcing hub by 2030, with on-site universities training locals to feed into a 200,000-strong tech-savvy workforce providing IT support and call centre services remotely.

It is being built on a 5000-acre Cattle ranch that is home to antelope and deer because of the delays. Even the 8 story building whose construction has been ongoing looks lost on this huge expanse of land.

The decade-old plan was launched by then Kenya President Mr Mwai Kibaki but has faced numerous delays and amid declining interest from the tech giants had initially planned to move in.

“It has taken too long and I think people have moved on,” Mr Josiah Mugambi, a tech entrepreneur and founder of Alba.one, a Nairobi-based software company, who was initially excited by the government’s ambitious project says.

However, all this may be about to change.

On Tuesday last week, Technology Giant Microsoft unveiled a 100 million dollar research and development centre in Nairobi tasked with producing innovative solutions.

The facility, dubbed Africa Development Centre (ADC), will help the multinational grow its market share across the continent in the wake of increased technology uptake in various economic sectors.

The centre will hire local engineers who will be tasked with working on cutting-edge technology tailored for the local and global markets.

It is the seventh globally, with plans underway to open another one in Lagos, Nigeria, later in the year.

This investment will likely renew Tech firms’ interest in Kenya, and will create opportunities for Konza City even as it competes for attention with Nigeria’s Eko Atlantic City near Lagos that will house 250,000 people on land reclaimed from the sea, Ghana’s Hope City and an Ethiopian city styled as the real Wakanda after the film “Black Panther.”  “Beyond that, it is an opportunity to engage more with local partners, academia, governments and developers — driving impact and innovation in sectors important to Africa.” Mr Phil Spencer and executive sponsor of the ADC at Microsoft said in a statement.

The unveiling of the new centre, which will initially be based at Microsoft’s main office, comes a year after it launched its first software testing hub in Africa.

A fellow of President Obama’s Young African Leadership Initiative (2016), Collins Hinamundi is an Award-winning journalist with 10 years’ experience covering Entertainment, finance & banking, macro-economic policy, energy, mining, natural resources and governance in East and Central Africa.

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