By Dr. Reuben Mutiso
Following the completion of the vertical infrastructure at Konza Techno City, the Konza Technopolis Development Authority has advertised for investors to express interest in to invest in the city, there has been vigorous discussion about the need for Konza City to Kenya and the Kenyan people. The dialogue should be encouraged. I believe that Konza City is critical to the future of the country – Kenya needs Konza to compete regionally and globally and help us become a middle-income country by 2030.
Konza is envisioned as a sustainable, world-class technology hub and a major economic driver for the nation, with a vibrant mix of businesses, workers, residents, and urban amenities. Just in the first phase, which encompasses about 400 acres of the entire 5,000 acre site, we have has asked investors to formal express have planned for a mixed-use community which will include commercial, residential, retail, public amenities, and a hotel, that could provide 17,000 jobs and housing for 30,000 residents. By 2020, Phase 1 is anticipated to add over KES 90bn to Kenya’s gross domestic product, and or approximately 2% of the country’s GDP. When fully built out, we project that Konza will be a thriving city with superb amenities and world-class infrastructure supporting nearly 200,000 jobs and over 260,000 residents.
Konza will attract businesses small and large, national and international. It will support and educate new and existing tech entrepreneurs. While Nairobi will remain the hub of innovation and creativity, Konza, with its reliable and redundant infrastructure and connectivity, will foster a technology ecosystem that will bring together a diverse population to provide solutions to our local problems and hopefully, to global challenges. For example, innovative technologies created by research labs and businesses in Konza can offer support to sectors that already play a key role in Kenya’s economy, such as Agriculture, Tourism, and Manufacturing. Innovative technologies could be developed here that support Kenyan farmers, for example, helping to reduce crop waste and introduce new and efficient processes to increase farming revenues.
No doubt there are challenges to developing and sustaining new cities and technology hubs outside of central business districts. Thoughtful planning and intensive collaboration between business, government, and educational institutions are critical to implementation. There are many thriving technology hubs of different sizes and scales that have catalyzed economic development and are precedents for Konza. Konza must emulate successful projects from around the world – for example, Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, USA, where political and civic leaders along with heads of educational institutions came together to plan and implement a 7,000-acre research and technology park in the 1950s, which now employs nearly 40,000 people, or Internet City in Dubai that has attracted 4,500 companies, and employs 20,000 workers.
A large concentration of private sector tech companies, universities, and research facilities will encourage new investment of venture capital and nurture an incubator for innovation leading to increased creativity and risk taking by entrepreneurs. With the synergy of universities collaborating with technology companies, Kenya will be able to produce tech graduates with the skills the world’s top companies demand. The presence of institutions of higher education at Konza will ensure the optimal transference of ideas and guarantee the emergence of a valuable workforce.
Our vision for Konza is to create a sustainable ecosystem where development can occur without leaving a negative footprint on the environment. The master plan calls for a truly mixed-use, high density and sustainable community. Energy saving and green construction methods will be employed; water will be recycled and treated on-site. A solar farm will also be installed to reduce Konza’s pressure on the national electric grid. The city will become a model of how adopting green practices and technology can minimize energy consumption and reduce carbon emissions.
While the benefits of Konza are clear, the journey will experience challenges. The Konza Technopolis Development Authority (KoTDA) is ready to address these challenges with the help of the Kenyan government and private partners, to guarantee that Konza propels the country to middle income status, and the innovations developed at Konza City transform the region and the world. We are excited to note the progress that has seen us among them the inclusion of Konza as one of the priority areas whose progress will be monitored closely by the State watchdog unit to make sure it delivers on its benefits.
For a Kshs. 940 billion project, Konza Techno City is obviously capital-intensive. It is truly the embodiment of a large scale public-private partnership project that represents a strategic opportunity to spur the growth of economic activities in Kenya with a high economic rate of return.
An attractive range of infrastructure investment opportunities lies therein in categories of Academia and Life Sciences; BPO/ITES; Construction; Energy; Financial Services; Healthcare; Hospitality; Utilities; Manufacturing; Real Estate; Sports and Telecom.
To create investor confidence and private sector uptake, Konza Technopolis Development Authority is keen to unlock financial instruments like infrastructure bonds, Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), loans, venture capitalists, diaspora funding to drive investment of the Techno City.
In the pipeline, in collaboration with the Public-Private Partnership Unit is a plan to establish a new legal framework enabling a structured, methodical and staged development of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) financing model for Techno city’s development.
Creation of an enabling environment will serve as a catalytic opportunity for American companies to increase economic partnerships and investment in Africa, specifically cater to the Africa market while being in Africa, as opposed to accessing the African market while in Europe or the Middle East.
We are on the right track towards the realization of this grand dream. The benefits of building Konza far outweigh the risks and challenges, real or imagined. I have no doubt in my mind that Kenya needs Konza now.
Dr.Reuben Mutiso Chairman of the Konza Technopolis Development Authority.