25 December 2012

East Africa: Kenya Inches Close to Its First 'Silicon Valley'

The eagerly awaited Konza Technology city was finally launched by president Mwai Kibaki in Makueni county. ( Resource: Kenya's First Technology City Launched

Nairobi — The realization of Kenya's first Information Communications Technology city appeared on track last week with the search for a consultant to draw up the master plan for the same.

Once complete, the $7 billion Konza Technology City project will be the first of its kind in eastern Africa.

Kenya's Ministry of Information and Communications which is in charge of the multi-billion dollar project announced the beginning of its search for a consultant who will be charged with designing the master plan for the project expected to kick off early next year.

The first phase of the project will be constructed at a cost of $2.3 billion. The government is still sourcing for financiers for the projects will already a lot of local investor interest. Of much attention is the escalation of the real estate projects around the area.

The ministry in an 'expression of interest' advert appearing in the dailies last week said the master development plan partner will also be charged with advising on the various infrastructure side projects expected to come with the main project.

"The consultant will be hired and work under the Konza Technolopolis Development Authority," said the Ministry in the advert.

The Authority is a state corporation under the Ministry of Information and Communications charged with overseeing the development of the Konza project expected to be complete in four phases over a period of 20 years.

President Mwai Kibaki is expected to preside over the ground breaking of the project in January next year.

Once complete, the project is expected to have business processing outsourcing, a number of business suites and parks and some residential properties especially targeting the expatriate community.

The master planner is expected to construct these facilities and lease them out to the business community.

The project will complete with its governance and a Central Business District (CBD).

The Konza Technolopolis is one of the flagship projects under Kenya's development blueprint, commonly referred to as the Vision 2030.

Initially there were fears that land buying companies and speculators had infested the area hiving off chunks of land the retaining them for speculative purposes.

The government however moved in and froze any clandestine land dealings in the area. The entry of the master planner will put this situation under check as the consultant will be the only one with land buying and leasing rights.

There lies a lot of Business Process Outsourcing potential in Kenya especially given its strategic placement geographical on the continent and the availability of excess fibre optic capacity and infrastructure. The Konza project alone is expected to provide some 200,000 jobs. According to the Ministry of Information and Communications, the out of the total number of the jobs, 80,000 will be in the BPO sector.

Technopolis are common in developed western countries with the United States of America standing out with its much famed Silicon Valley. Developing countries are fast embracing this development and the speed has been aided with the landing of a number of major fibre optic cables in a number of countries.

Kenya is currently served by The East African Marine Systems (TEAMS), EASSY, LION among other fibre optic cables. It is currently once of the countries with excess bandwidth that calls for deeper investments in the sector.

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