Nairobi is emerging as one of Africa’s top tech hubs. The city’s growing popularity with young tech minds and talent from across the region has seen it attract world class tech companies such as Mocrosoft, IBM, Google and local giant Safaricom, all of whom have their establishments there.
The emergence of the city as a technology ecosystem can be traced back to many factors including government and private sector investments in improving physical and technological infrastructure over the past few years, which have made it easy for the technology sector to thrive.
According to the latest JLL city momentum index, Nairobi was ranked one of the fastest growing and most dynamic cities globally driven by combination of ‘World Bank funding, government support and the arrival of major global companies such as IBM and Microsoft in recent years.’
Furthermore, the city is the centerpiece of East Africa’s largest economy which is diversified and non-dependent on commodities or minerals. This means the city attracts a diverse labour force, making it a melting pot of ideas exchange and support networks.
“Innovation is a growing part of Nairobi’s economy,” says Matthew McAuley, senior global research analyst at JLL. “In recent years it’s built a thriving culture for start-ups and become a leader in mobile payment, with apps such as the popular Vodafone-backed M-PESA money transfer app. M-PESA’s success has inspired the younger generation of Kenyans and made them think that they could also make a success of tech.”
“R&D – particularly in software – has grown and that’s thanks to international arrivals such as Microsoft,” McAuley told JLL. “There’s a good amount of collaboration with local universities, which are contributing to a talent pipeline to fuel its future tech scene.”
At the core of Nairobi’s tech transformation has been the increasing demand for better goods and services following the success of such technologies like M-Pesa which has played a vital role in showcasing the potential of technology in increasing the range of the possibilities. Different sector s of the city’s economy, which contributes 21.7 per cent to the national GDP, have since embraced technology in one or the other way.
“So far, growth has been from the ground up, but tech has the long-term potential to become a much bigger contributor to economic growth, to easing constraints on other parts of the economy – and to real estate demand,” said MCAuley.
With one of the highest internet speeds on the globe, the city’s well placed to compete continentally with the likes of Cape Town, Africa’s tech capital and its West African counterparts, for Africa’s tech cake.