Konza City: Kenya’s ‘Silicon Savannah’ will break ground in January 2013

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The long wait appears to be over. Work on Kenya’s much-anticipated Konza Technology City is set to commence on 23 January. Investment banker John Ngumi will lead the project, and preside over the Konza Technopolis Development Authority which will track and regulate the city’s development.

Development of Kenya’s multi-billion dollar technopolis was scheduled to start in 2011, but was postponed to April this year due to a land allocation controversy, slow approvals and a lack of private investor interest. Since then, boosted by a KSh16 billion (US$192 million) investment from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the project has managed to secure foreign investment, but Dr. Bitange Ndemo, the secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Information, says that local investors are still hesitant to commit at the concept stage.

Konza is an ambitious plan to galvanise the region as a technology and innovation hub. While the project which aims to emulate the success of Silicon Valley in the US has its proponents, there are those that remain skeptical about Konza’s ability to foster local entrepreneurship. The news of foreign interest indicates that Konza’s pitch as a business process outsourcing (BPO) host is gaining favour, but the project is also intended to serve as an incubator for local startups, which will require more local investment.

Human IPO reports that only seven local investors had signed up by April this year — out of the seven only, two were tech companies. Since then the numbers have reportedly increased, but the actual statistics are not available.

Earlier this year we asked whether or not the funds invested in the Konza project could be better allocated to nurturing ground roots incubation projects such as iHub, which could grow the ICT sector organically, attracting the international interest Konza is seeking.

It seems the Kenyan government believes Konza is the way forward, but does this vision conflict with the needs of local businesses?

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