Nairobi’s importance goes well beyond its position as the seat of the country’s government—when it comes to business and tech innovation on the continent, Kenya’s capital could likely be your first stop in all of Africa.
And with the information and communications technology (ICT) sector accounting for 12.1% of Kenya’s economy—a double-digit increase over the past decade—Nairobi’s tech startup ecosystem is a force to be reckoned with in 2018.
Here are 11 reasons why Nairobi may be the next Silicon Valley.
11. Nairobi is a leading center for international tech enterprises and startups in East Africa.
Nairobi is East and Central Africa’s main business hub and a center of major tech investments from global enterprises. The city is home to a myriad of startups as well as tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Samsung, and Intel, to name a few.
10. Improved infrastructure and connectivity across the country.
2009 marked a monumental turn of events for Kenya’s internet users: the introduction of fiber infrastructure, leading to significant cost reductions in internet access that ultimately led to a tripling of the local internet user base, most connecting via mobile. Nairobi’s internet speeds are on par with that of cities with the most sophisticated infrastructures in the world.
9. A vote of confidence from venture capitalists.
Due to the city’s connectedness and the concentration of tech startups, labs, and other innovation spaces—as well as the sizable presence of tech enterprises both large and small, Nairobi is often referred to as the Silicon Savannah.” This has drawn the attention of both African investors and venture capitalists from across the globe. Most recently, the launch of iHub and the government-created Konza City—a one-of-a-kind techno-city—on the outskirts of the Nairobi have also boosted local investor morale and confidence.
8. Ease of access to markets through trade shows
The iconic Kenyatta International Conference Center and other spaces within the city host a myriad of exhibitions and trade fairs throughout the year, offering firms eyeing the lucrative African market a stage for drawing international attention to their digital products and services. Tradeshows like Digital Kenya, the Kenyan International Education Fair, and Build Expo are just some of the few events that link the city to patricians in tech.
7. A leading regional center for tech education and mentorships.
Based in Kenya’s capital, the University of Nairobi (UoN) is the country’s oldest and largest university and a primary source of young tech professionals entering the job market. Additionally, Nairobi has been a top choice for several international and local tech organizations looking to set foot in Africa, partnering with regional educational institutions to offer learning and mentorship platforms to students.
6. An environment that boasts a longstanding tradition of tech innovation.
Nairobi’s markets are amongst the region’s most forward-thinking and have given rise to such offerings as the popular mobile money transfer service mPesa, as well as startups like M-kopa, M-Farm, and Ushahidi, to name but a few. These firms have transformed the way local consumers transact and consume digital products/services, as well as created countless jobs and opportunities for budding entrepreneurs.
5. A strong economy poised for growth.
It’s a fact that growth in technology is directly proportional to economic growth in an area. The birth of Nairobi’s M-pesa in 2007 has led to the service’s astronomical growth—to the tune of nearly $1.2 billion, with an estimated half of the Kenyan population embracing the service.
4. Government policies focused on supporting technology ventures and innovation.
The Kenyan government is intent on supporting ICT and has created several initiatives to this end. Additionally, the government’s policies towards investors are designed to support in-country tech innovation and attract investment.
3. An abundance of highly qualified, young IT professionals.
Nairobi is among the region’s fastest growing cities with local economy based around technology and innovation. The city is home to many global enterprises that rely on local talent for manufacturing and business processing outsourcing.
2. Mature financial markets and a stable economic climate.
Established in 1954, The Nairobi Securities Exchange is the leading securities exchange in East Africa. Barclays Bank of Kenya, Kakuzi, and Kenya Airways are just a few examples of companies listed on the leading exchange.
1. A steady increase of skilled IT professionals over the past decade.
With the Kenyan education system focused on technology and the government’s initiatives to support ICT and digital innovation, Nairobi is set to become a leading continental hub for tech professionals and entrepreneurs. Investor-supported mentorship and training opportunities have been instrumental in helping local tech entrepreneurs build and expand their companies.
In short, Kenya’s growing population of young entrepreneurs and tech professionals, dynamic private sector, improved infrastructure, and new constitution are positioning its capital city to be one of Africa’s greatest success stories. Be sure to keep Nairobi and its tech startups on your radar as they go head-to-head with the best and brightest from Silicon Valley in 2018.