Kenya

Kenya leads the KINGS because it is at the forefront in three critical areas:
  1. An aggressive and conscious government program to develop a broadband infrastructure;
  2. Two critical innovations-mobile money and a crowdsourcing platform; and
  3. The development of a tech incubator and accelerator model for the continent, catalyzing the innovation agenda that has swept through Africa like wildfire.

    In a clarion call to government, researchers, academia, and the private sector to make it a reality, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared that Kenya is a "start up nation" (Government of Kenya 2015), and since making this statement, several events in Kenya confirmed it. In 2015, the country hosted its first ICT Innovation Forum as a catalyst to accelerate collaboration and growth in the ICT sector. In the same year, US President Barak Obama visited Kenya to open the Fifth Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which recognized Kenya as a center of tech entrepreneurship. Confirming the "Africa Tech Rising" narrative, Obama said, “I wanted to be here because Africa is on the move, young people are harnessing technology" (Euronews 2015).

    In a clear message of Kenya's commitment to ICT growth, President Kenyatta appointed two industry champions to key positions: Joe Mucheru as Cabinet ICT Secretary and Victor Kyalo as Principal Secretary (Kenya Current 2015). Mucheru co-founded Wananchi Online (now Zuku) and was among the very first staff of Google Africa. Kyalo was instrumental in building up the KICTA and the Kenya Educational Network (KENET).

    Microsoft chief executive officer (CEO) Satya Nadella followed up the Global Entrepreneurship Summit with the global launch of Windows 10 in Nanyuki, Kenya. When asked why he chose Kenya, he said that he wanted to listen and learn from the Kenyan innovators on the ground who are building amazing start-ups from the bottom up and are not big multinationals (Madowo 2015). These developments point to the fact that Africa in general, and Kenya in particular, is getting the attention of the world when it comes to entrepreneurship and high-tech business opportunities. Kenya made Africa proud by hosting the summit and the Windows 10 launch, which is being perceived as the turnaround operating system for the software giant (Gosier 2015).

    Kenya also spearheaded the mobile money revolution through the introduction of M-PESA, which currently constitutes roughly 20 % of the country’s transaction flow (McKay and Mazer 2014). Kenya also gave the world Ushahidi—a disaster-management platform based on crowdsourcing now used for monitoring disasters in countries around the world, from Haiti, Chile, and Pakistan to Congo, Philippines, Peru, Kenya, China, and Russia (Halliday 2010).

    Kenya currently has one of the fastest internet connections on the continent because of an entrepreneurial government policy initiated in 2007 under the leadership of Professor Bitange Ndemo (former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communications). Professor Ndemo, with the support of Minister Mutahi Kagwe and President Mwai Kibaki, effectively navigated through bureaucracy and vested interests that stifled growth in Kenya’s telecommunications sector. Their efforts paid off, and Kenya became the home of M-PESA, the world-famous mobile-money platform that enjoys staggering success in advancing financial inclusion as well as cutting down transaction time for Kenyans.

    In addition to M-PESA, the Kenya government entered into a public-private partnership to build the first submarine cable, TEAMS, and a terrestrial fiber infrastructure, the NOFBI. These projects laid the foundation for other submarine and terrestrial fiber networks to be built by private operators, resulting in a competitive environment that drove down the cost of broadband and increased connectivity speeds.

    The convergence of the availability of broadband with the creative ingenuity of digital natives and millennials has resulted in new ventures applying high-tech solutions to real problems. Kopo Kopo's system, for example, allows merchants on its network to increase revenues, NikoHapa offers a customer loyalty reward system that uses QR issued codes, Weza Tele provides mobile solutions in commerce, and M-Farm connects farmers and buyers. Others ventures include MPrep, an e-learning platform; the PesaPal payment aggregation platform; Uhasib, a web and mobile cloud-based accounting system for accountants and small- and medium-size enterprises; Arifu, an SMS-based learning platform for individuals and corporates; Sprint Interactive, a digital agency with a unique storytelling approach; and Elimu, an award-winning, engaging, and fun interactive application for children learning and preparing for their exams in the Kenyan Primary School system (iHub Research 2013).

    According to Business Daily (2015), Weza Tele recently sold to AFB for USD1.7 million—the first exit in the nascent tech industry in Kenya (Jackson 2015c). Most of these entrepreneurial activities take place on Ngong Road in Nairobi, which is likened to America's Silicon Valley.

    To buttress the growth of a technology economy, the Kenyan government has set aside 5000 acres of land to set up Konza Techno City-a USD9.4 billion undertaking envisioned as a smart technology city where innovation, technology, knowledge, and research come together to create wealth (MIT Technology Review 2015).

    An example of a next-generation company from Kenya is Cellulant, which Kenyan Ken Njoroge and Nigerian Bolaji Akinboro founded in 2002. The company has won wide recognition as a mobile financial services provider and is considered to be Kenya's biggest export to the rest of Africa. Jenkins writes that the Financial Times recognizes Cellulant’s provision of a mobile payment system across 10 countries, including Kenya, Zambia, Botswana and Gambia, with plans to expand to another 13 countries in the next 15 months (Jenkins 2015).

    There are other new-generation Kenyan innovative companies like Mike Macharia's Seven Seas Technologies, a leading provider of integrated business and technology solutions; John Waibochi’s Virtual City, a leading provider of innovative mobility solutions that simplify lives; Segeni Ngethe's Mama Mikes, an online shopping platform for Africans in the diaspora; and Craft Silicon, a financial solution provider of software for banks, microfinance, mobile, and switch solution in the global market (Adar 20 15).