Why Konza should be Kenya’s capital city

Konza Technopolis

Konza Technopolis

Because that’s where the Government belongs; far and removed from ordinary people. Seriously though, wouldn’t it make much more sense if the country separates the administrative and commercial capitals? Many countries, including Tanzania, Nigeria and South Africa have moved the seat of government from their largest cities. So it will not be unprecedented.

 

The Konza project is a noble idea but it is also ambitious and built on a false premise. Personally, I am not convinced the proposed 8.5 billion dollar Konza technopolis is viable in the current form for two main reasons;

 

First, technology is not an end by itself; it is a means to an end. For the tech industry to thrive there needs to be a vibrant economy that includes all other major sectors of the economy like banking, construction, agribusiness and academia. We understand the master plan has provision for some of these sectors but the government is only selling the techcity vision. Our ICT industry is still too nascent to be burdened with such a huge responsibility. Only two IT companies are listed in our securities exchange. Even if we were to grow this industry ten-fold in the next 15 years, it would still be insufficient to sustain a city.

 

Maybe, as the government projects, the bulk of the firms at Konza will be multinationals with an eye on the region or the continent. The MNC’s still have to ask a few critical questions; what is the competitive advantage of Konza? Will we get tax breaks? Are we closer to our market? Is the operating environment better? Is there a supporting environment? The existent of a vibrant economy at Konza is not only a source of clients for tech companies but will also service the tech companies and their staff.

 

Second, the whole concept of ‘build-and-believe’ as opposed to demand-driven growth is built on quick sand. This is the type of grandiose planning that has seen the government of Angola develop a housing estate with 20,000 houses with 20 schools and over 100 shops in Kilembe – 30 kilometres from the capital Luanda. Sounds like a very good plan; only that Kilembe is a ghost town. The citizens have either not seen the need to move to the new beautiful development or it is out of reach for the majority of average and poor Angolans that were to move in after completion of the housing scheme. And that’s just phase one.

 

But this ‘political projects’ can be avoided or redesigned to allow for need-based development and organic growth. If we made Konza the administrative capital of Kenya and Nairobi as the commercial capital, we will be on track to seperating our politics and economy, a much needed change in the country.

 

Brasília is the largest city in the world that did not exist at the beginning of the 20th century.

Brasília is the largest city in the world that did not exist at the beginning of the 20th century.

This will mean we move key government ministries and departments to Konza including state house. Imagine the effect that would have on traffic. The government will develop a housing estate for civil servants and schools for their children. Since the demand will have been created, teachers will find it sensible to move to Konza and a whole independent economy will start to emerge encompassing the financial, manufacturing, hospitality and tech sectors.

 

Embassies will relocate their offices and staff from Nairobi to Konza to be closer to the seat of government. We can learn a lot from Abuja, Pretoria, Dodoma, Brasilia, Navi Mumbai and many other cities that have been developed to be the capital cities of their respective countries. It is well documented that planned cities contribute significantly to the economy of the country and perform way above older cities in almost all indices including infrastructure, condition of living and amenities.

 

But what do we do with all the government offices in Nairobi? We can convert them to be county offices or sell to the business community. Konza might just be the solution to what ails Nairobi.

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