Kenya’s future as a regional ICT hub

It would be a fatal oversight on my part if I did not emphasise my view that our national objective to be a global ICT hub and our commitment to building a strong knowledge based economy are mutually inclusive activities. We can only attract strong foreign and local investment in to ICT if we can demonstrate the aptitude and political will to adopt its usage in all facets of our national development. By this I mean:-

” We must use ICT as the primary tool to promote accountability and efficiency in government, through deployment of e-government solutions that give the mwananchi access to government services wherever they are Kenya;
” We must reenergize our efforts to use ICT to widen and safeguard the hard earned democratic space that we have all become accustomed to by using technology to encourage citizen participation in leadership decisions;
” We must use ICT to empower our children to be globally competitive against their peers in the first world, by exposing them at the earliest opportunity to ICT tools that allow them to sharpen their young minds;
” We must create a knowledgeable and innovative workforce that relies less on brawn and more on brain so as to leverage ICT to solve some of the social problems that we face such as security and access to basic health care.

In so doing, we make ICT a means to an ends and an integral part of our development strategy.

Your Excellency, The point I am trying to make is that by focusing on building a knowledge based economy, global ICT players will stop seeing Kenya as a sales destination with whom they will have a purely transactional relationship. Instead they will seek to partner with our local entrepreneurs, they will seek to employ our talented youth, they will want to take advantage of your investment policies to set up shop locally and most importantly they will retain a significant portion of the wealth they generate in Kenya for the benefit of the local economy.

Already, the mere mention of The Konza Technopolis getting the world excited for exactly the reasons mentioned above. I am always pleasantly surprised by the number of international companies knocking on my door as they announce their local presence. The entry of companies such as Google, IBM , TATA, SAP, Oracle , Microsoft, just to mention a few is testimony to the fact that there is more than a passing flirtation with Kenya.

Your Excellency, as a representative of the private sector it is comforting to note that the Government through the recently launched National Broadband Strategy has in effect set out a very clear intention to transform Kenya in to a knowledge based society through the aggressive expansion of a high capacity broadband network. Diligent implementation of this strategy will be instrumental in translating our national aspirations in to tangible results.

In closing, I must confess that I know I was asked to speak specifically about Kenya’s future as a regional ICT Hub, while in my speech I clearly allowed myself to digress as I made repeated references to being a global as opposed to a regional ICT hub. The only reason for this is because I know from my few years here that Kenyans do not aim low.

(The Safaricom CEO gave this speech at a conference organised by the IMF on Kenya’s economic successes, prospects and challenges).

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