Published: 10:51, May 25, 2023 | Updated: 10:51, May 25, 2023
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Kenya set to become Africa's high-tech hub
By ​Otiato Opali in Nairobi, Kenya

Ambitious project to expand country's IT sector as it woos Chinese investors

Visitors tour the 400-kV Konza substation in Konza, Kenya. (XIE SONGXIN / CHINA DAILY)

Konza Technopolis is courting Chinese investors, as the key project of Kenya's national development plan Vision 2030 is in its final stages of completion in the first phase.

Anna Wafula, manager of business development and innovation of the Konza Technopolis Development Authority, said there are many more opportunities in the special economic zone that can bring Africa and China together.

"For instance, here at Konza Technopolis, we have many investment opportunities that can be taken up by Chinese investors who will enjoy incentives, such as tax reliefs, while operating under a one-stop shop because the Technopolis is a special economic zone," she said.

Dubbed African Silicon Savannah, Konza Technopolis is a 5,000-acre (2,024-hectare) technology hub under construction by the Kenyan government. Located 64 kilometers south of Nairobi, it is expected to position the country as Africa's leading high-tech hub by expanding Kenya's nascent information technology-enabled services sector.

Being developed at a cost of $14.5 billion, the project will be Kenya's future hub for business process outsourcing, software development, data centers, disaster recovery centers, call centers and light assembly manufacturing industries. A university campus focusing on research and technology is already under construction. The city will also host hotels, residential areas, schools and hospitals.

The sprawling technology hub will also include general and affordable housing for people working and living within the Technopolis as well as affordable housing for students.

"We are housed under the Ministry of Information, Communications and The Digital Economy," Wafula said. "So far, we are progressing well and we have already established the national data center in conjunction with Huawei, which is an important feature because it will enable the Kenyan government to digitize its services both at the national level and the county level."

Konza Technopolis Development Authority had engagements with several Kenyan counties for helping them with solutions that will enable them to enhance the dissemination of services in an efficient and cost-effective manner, she said. It also supports the innovation ecosystem by hosting them on the national data center and providing solutions for startups.

Good relationship

"We are happy to work with Huawei to establish this national data center, and we have enjoyed a good working relationship. We are hoping that more Chinese companies will invest in this project owing to the good relationship we have cultivated. The services of the data center are therefore available to anyone who wants to use it not only in Kenya but in East Africa as a whole."

Konza Technopolis has almost finished laying the necessary infrastructure, which was the main task in the first phase of the project. It is projected that Phase I of Konza Technopolis, upon completion, will generate 17,000 jobs and contribute an additional 2 percent of GDP to the country.

"So far, the first phase is 90 percent complete, and we have been able to secure investors in areas including commerce, technology, industry and education," Wafula said. "We are ready and open for business, and we expect that in the next phase, the investors who have secured space will be able to start setting up now that the infrastructure is already in place.

"Under (the Ministry of) ICT, we invite Chinese technological expertise in areas like software development, and manufacturing of equipment and artificial intelligence. We also invite Chinese expertise in engineering since we have so much construction to do and China is a major Kenyan partner in infrastructure development."

The 400-kilovolt Konza substation, one of the key infrastructure undertakings in the Technopolis and being constructed by the China Aerospace Construction Group Co, is expected to supply power by March next year. More than 80 percent of construction and equipment installation have been completed, said Hu Jing, chief representative in Kenya of CACGC.

The project will ensure stable power supply to the Technopolis as well as the manufacturing, social and economic development in the vicinity.

The substation, in addition to the 40-km 400-kV Isinya-Konza transmission line, is financed by the Export-Import Bank of China to transmit geothermal, hydro and wind power from western Kenya to the east and to ensure power supply to Konza Technopolis.

"We designed the project for Kenya as an example in its implementation of the digital economy strategy," Hu said.

Since its construction in 2019, the project has created more than 400 jobs and trained more than 100 local workers and engineers.