Should we in Kenya lie to ourselves that we are a leading ICT destination in Africa? Lying to ourselves has the positive effect of creating momentum, good International Public Relations, and much needed media coverage. In the past ten years we’ve seen a flurry of business angels and venture capitalists hawk the landscape in search of the next MPESA. That has had a positive impact on the ICT space with several innovations getting noticed and funded. Actually, many of the innovations hubs have thrived because of riding the “ICT wave” that Kenya is the final destination in Africa when it comes to ICTs. And because the hubs thrive, they help to cement that notion by walking the talk. The many Apps competitions like DEMO Africa, and PIVOT East too have thrive because of the same notion, and stimulate our young people to develop great applications. And the cycle continues.
Kenya has become a launchpad for Africa’s commercial strategy for Tech firms, as Kenya grows it’s influence as the regional tech hub powerhouse. Multinationals like the IBM (research lab), Google, Microsoft, Samsung, and Bharti Airtel have all noticed and setup regional hubs in Kenya because of confidence in us. While in Indonesia for the 8th IGF as an Internet Society Ambassador, I met a Fijian lady who was praising Kenya for being the silicon valley of Africa. Indeed, a Kenyan Bernard of nikohapa.com won the AfriNIC/SEED Alliance FIRE award for the best application in the region.
Remember, according to some CNN article by Todd Leopold, (http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/02/us/american-exceptionalism-other-countries-lessons) Americans lag behind in many academic and social measurements. They are number 27th in Mathematics, 50th in life expectancy, 72nd in paying taxes, and 173rd in infant mortality yet they are number 1 in self confidence, and they literally rule the world. Rwanda too is riding on the wave of good international PR, my thesis is, after 30th years, it will be Africa’s Singapore. We need that confidence, PR and international goodwill to rub on us. I don’t mind if we lie to ourselves.
We owe much of the gains of the last 10 years to the optimism that swept the country after the 2002 elections, and the pragmatism of President Kibaki who realised the value of PR for the country, and Dr. Ndemo’s action oriented approach in growing the ICT sector (remember the impossible undersea cable and the dream Konza Technology city).
Vision 2030 too was part of that optimism. I hope and pray that the Uhuru regime will capitalise on the gains made, and move us to even greater heights.
Finally, lets celebrate the young Kenyans who spend countless hours in University of Nairobi Nokia lab and innovation Lab, Strathmore’s iLab, iHub, Nailab, mLab, e.t.c. This guys have made Kenya a technology tourism destination, and contributed to the confidence we enjoy now.