It may be no Sillicon Valley, but the Kenyan technology sector – especially in the fields of telecom and information and communications technology – has been booming over the past few years. This recent success has now been highlighted in a new World Bank report. The report says that the impressive growth in these areas “could boost performance of a number of sectors.” It goes on to list transportation, agriculture, and infrastructure as potential beneficiaries of such a trickle-down effect.
The report listed some of the key strengths of Kenya’s tech economy: it an excellent global location, an educated and dedicated workforce, and a rapidly growing number of foreign investors. The country also boasts a large and growing online community that can integrate well with local technological endeavors. All these factors have contributed to the 20 percent growth shown by the information and communications technology sector over the past ten years.
But challenges to growth certainly remain. The report listed two key concerns: the ongoing global economic crisis and the Kenyan political situation. The economic crisis has hurt Kenya’s export industries, such as tea product, and it has somewhat curtailed the amount of foreign investment, especially that investment that arrives from Europe and the West. Some analysts believe, however, that there could be a silver lining here: with less foreign investment, the growing technology sector may be able to prosper better in the long run by relying less on foreign aid. On the political front, instability in the government and in the electoral process continues to cast a shadow over the tech industry.
These challenges notwithstanding, the technology boom has reflected Nairobi’s steadfast investments in the industry in recent years. Once a middling African nation on this front, Kenya is now being hailed as a new center for innovation – and overseas tech giants have taken notice. Google, for example, has been hiring workers in East Africa, expanding its regional coverage, and planning to blanket Nairobi with its Street View program in the next year. Other sites like Bing and Anywho.com can be sure to follow.
The World Bank report concluded by calling 2012 a defining year for the Kenyan economy. Thanks to its recent growth and remarkable potential, the success of the tech sector is likely to play a key role in that outcome as the year progresses.
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