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Why Nairobi is ranked the ‘smartest city’ in Africa


Nairobi is the most intelligent city in Africa according to a report released by The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF). Nairobi has been listed among the 21 most intelligent cities for a second year in a row and the only African city to make the cut. However, Nairobi missed out on the top 7 position, losing out to three cities in the US, New Taipei City, Rio de Janeiro, Ipswich in Australia and Surrey in Canada.

Communities around the world nominate cities that have the greatest capacity to create opportunities and prosper in the broadband economy.  According to the New-York based think tank and CNN, 5 factors make Nairobi an intelligent city:

1. Mobile Money Economy

Nairobi is the biggest city with the most subscribers of mobile money and has nearly 70 percent mobile phone penetration. The mobile money ecosystem has created related enterprises and products. The report gives an example of M-Shwari savings product which has a customer base of 7 million and facilitated $14 million in loans in the last two years after launch. ICF credits the growth of the mobile money economy to the liberalization of communications sector towards the late 90’s.

2. Government policies

The government’s deliberate move to make ICT one of the central pillars in the Vision 2030 development plan has been lauded as progressive. The government’s emphasis on ICT has been one of the key factors tech multinationals have set up base in Nairobi. “If present trends continue and gain greater momentum, Nairobi may achieve the coveted goal of developed status sooner than anyone expects,” states ICF.

3. Innovation ecosystem

The Intelligent Community Forum identifies iHub as the genesis of innovation hubs that have now spread across the country. The model has allowed tech entrepreneurs develop and launch innovative products, not just in Kenya but across Africa. Multinational organizations have found a working system to plug-in and partner with. ICF gives an example of how Microsoft has partnered with Intel and a school association to create devices bundled with educational apps and affordable data plans.

4. Partnerships between the private sector and Universities

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Multinational and regional tech corporations are partnering with universities to equip practical skills of students. Huawei, Intel, Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, Google, Samsung are some of the companies that have university programs.

5. Diversified economy

Nairobi accounts for 60 percent of Kenya’s GDP with various sectors such as manufacturing, financial markets and tourism contributing to the economy of the country. “The beginning of a modern market economy has permitted private-sector and public-sector progress to take hold.”

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