Kenya is a small coastal nation in northeast Africa. Known as a popular tourist destination, people praise Kenya for its tea exports, beautiful landscapes and rich biodiversity. Currently, Kenya is engaged in a rapid expansion of its information technology sector. This makes it one of the notable tech hubs in the developing world. Here are seven facts about technology in Kenya.
7 Facts About Technology in Kenya
- Nicknamed the “Silicon Savannah,” Kenya is regarded as the second-best innovation hub in Sub-Saharan Africa. Tech start-ups thrive in Kenya, due in part to the ready availability of credit lines and other forms of financing. 2019 was the ninth consecutive year Kenya exceeded the innovation relative to GDP figures expected from middle-income nations.
- Mobile financial transaction apps are especially popular in Kenya. Nearly 70 percent of the population uses these apps regularly. This is partially because the Kenyan government privatized the state-managed telecommunication services, leading to the eventual emergence of Safaricom, the now dominant face of telecommunications in Kenya. Safaricom debuted its first money-transfer app, M-Pesa, in 2007.
- M-Pesa is not the only successful mobile app in Kenya. Farmer Su Kahumbu Stephanou created iCow in 2011. iCow’s original function enabled farmers to monitor their cows’ breeding cycles and milk production. iCow gradually updated to feature advice and information for farmers to use to maximize their income potential. Since iCow runs on SMS, it’s available to farmers who can only afford older models of mobile phones.
- Kenya’s once outdated telecommunications networks are now some of the most cutting edge in Africa. Kenyans residing in urban areas have easy access to fast and affordable internet. The internet infrastructure in rural areas is catching up. Internet subscription rates increased from 29.6 percent in 2017 to 41.1 percent in 2018. As of June 2018, 97.8 percent of Kenyans owned a mobile phone subscription.
- iHub, a technology-focused co-working facility in Nairobi, opened in 2010. Today, it houses dozens of tech companies, researchers and entrepreneurs. iHub and Nairobi’s other tech incubators and innovation centers have enticed foreign venture capitalists and international companies like Google and Microsoft to invest in the local tech scene. Funding for tech startups rose 92.7 million USD in 2016, to 147 million the following year. In 2020, Nairobi will host the Next Einstein Forum, Africa’s marquee science and technology conference.
- A study conducted by the International Development Research Center in partnership with Oxford Insights determined that Kenya is well-equipped to utilize artificial intelligence (AI) technology solutions. Kenya employs some AI technologies, including sexual and reproductive health monitoring chat bots. While 78 percent of Kenya’s largest corporations have integrated modern IT solutions into business operations, only 20 to 40 percent of the nation’s smaller-scale businesses have done so.
- Kenya’s early success in tech enterprises encouraged the government to double-down in support of its new industry. The national Internet Communications Technology board worked with iHub on multiple projects. The government also instituted Vision 2030, a strategy to construct the infrastructure backbone necessary for further IT development. Plans are even underway to design and build a new city meant to serve as a national tech-hub. These plans are estimated to cost as much as 7 billion USD.
Although still in its early stages, Kenya’s emerging technology sector has quickly grown into a lucrative slice of the national economic pie. These seven facts about technology in Kenya show that the country is innovative and has made great progress in improving the availability of technology to its citizens.
– Dan Zamarelli