Kenya plans new Konza Technology City dubbed “Africa’s Silicon Savannah”

Kenya is planning an ambitious new city intended to be a technology center:

Located almost 40 miles south-east of the capital Nairobi, Konza Technology City is expected to create more than 20,000 IT jobs by 2015, and around 200,000 jobs by the time it’s completed in 2030.

The 2011-hectare site will have a residential area comprising around 37,000 homes to accommodate 185,000 people…

“It is expected to spur massive trade and investment as well as create thousands of employment opportunities for young Kenyans,” said Kenya’s president Mwai Kibaki at the groundbreaking ceremony.

The project, which is part of the government’s Vision 2030 initiative to improve the Kenya’s infrastructure, is also set to include a university campus, hotels, schools, hospitals and research facilities.

Sounds impressive. See more at the city’s official website which includes this overview of the history of the project:

The idea and interest for an African Silicon Savannah in Kenya was first inspired by trends in Business Processing Outsourcing and Information Technology Enabled Services (BPO/ITES), which showed a global offshore BPO/ITES revenue estimated at US$ 110 billion in 2010 and a projected three fold growth to reach US$ 300 billion by 2015.

Currently there over 2.8 million people employed in this sub-sector world wide, however, statistics show that Africa only attracts about 1 % of the total revenues accruing from this growing industry. Only a few African countries have made effort to develop this industry; South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Ghana and Mauritius have each launched national programs to grow BPO/ITES.

It became clear that Kenya stood a good chance to attract a sizeable chunk of the expected growth in the off shoring BPO/ITES trade revenues if the Government took lead in the development of this industry.

Now we just have to wait a while to see how it all turns out. I’m not saying it will turn out badly but what if it does – who is responsible for the costs and how might this affect the technology sector in Africa?

While the term “Silicon Savannah” sounds catchy, does having such a name help the prospects for the project? I imagine it could appeal to some with the imagery of connecting Silicon Valley and Africa but it also seems derivative and something plenty of other places have tried.

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