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Countdown to 5000 acre ICT park

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 8 – The government will in the next one month start inviting bids from investors to set up amenities at the proposed 5,000-acre technology park in Machakos District.

Information Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo said on Friday that the master plan on how to develop the Konza Technology City, which was initially referred to as Malili Technology Park is ready and he exuded optimism that they would put up the facilities before the 2012 deadline.

“Around the end of this month, we will have a comprehensive presentation of the whole thing including the pictures and videos. In November, we will get the people interested to put up structures. We already have about five (investors) who have come and hopefully at the beginning of the year, we can see something going on,” the PS enthused.

The project which is expected to cost billions of shillings will entail the construction of a high-tech science park, residential estate, hotels and other social amenities such as schools, hospitals and universities.

Already, the National Youth Service is on the ground laying the physical infrastructure such as roads and the PS expressed satisfaction with the progress of the project which has in the past been delayed by corruption allegations over the purchase of the land where the park will sit.

Mr Ndemo however voiced disappointment with the encroachment of the park’s designated buffer zones by area residents which he feared might discourage investments.

“A shanty has come up in Konza Technology City before we’ve even put up the structures. This is the time we are going to market the place and you have the shanties billowing with smoke from roasted meat… do you expect that someone will put their $4 billion there to put up a hotel,” he posed.

This sad state of affairs has forced the PS to write to the Local Authority in Machakos asking it to pass by-laws that discourage unplanned development in and around the Konza ICT Park.

A group calling itself the ‘Mutui Museo’ or Good Neighbour, made up of professionals drawn mainly from the Ukambani region to coordinate the project has however vowed to address the encroachment issue as well as other challenges that may hinder its smooth implementation.

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Chairman Dr Isaac Kalua pledged to carry out seminars to sensitise the community about the benefits they can accrue from the execution of the park as they seek to encourage their involvement in the project.

Once the project kicks off, it will put Kenya in a position to seize the huge unexploited opportunities that exist in the IT and Business Process Outsourcing sectors.

Not only is it expected to eventually create about 80,000 jobs and improve the livelihoods of people living around the area, it will also provide a gateway to the East African region, said Carl Powell, a consultant appointed by the International Finance Corporation and the government to determine the project’s viability.

“Yes the business is there, it’s growing and sustainable. What we need to do is to ask ourselves how we can tap into this process because if we don’t do anything, the business will go to other countries like India, Egypt and the Philippines” said another consultant Muriuki Mureithi pointing to the hundreds of billions of dollars spent by firms globally in outsourcing their services.

If Kenya was to adopt the model taken by the Philippines – which between 2004 and 2007, saw its GDP increase by 0.2 percent and its services sector by rise 6.2 percent – the country could equally see its economy expand significantly, driven by a growth in IT services sectors such as animation, game development and other selected line of business.

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