Kenya on right path to building thriving digital, tech ecosystem

As a country, our journey towards becoming a technological powerhouse is well underway.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Last week, I was honoured to be part of the government delegation accompanying President William Ruto on his state visit to the US.

This visit celebrated the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two nations. A partnership that has been instrumental in fostering innovation and progress in our tech landscape.

The visit also underscored the shared commitment of Kenya and the US in advancing global peace, security, and prosperity. On the sidelines of the state visit, I engaged stakeholders in the technology and trade sectors during the Diaspora Tech Investment Conference in Georgia, Atlanta.

We discussed the progress made in harnessing the growing e-commerce and digital economy and how technology serves as a catalyst for development.

Without doubt, Kenya stands as a beacon of innovation and digital advancement within the African landscape, characterised by a rapidly evolving, youthful, and digitally savvy population. Our dynamic ecosystem, known as ‘Silicon Savannah’, which is home to more than 200 startups, has attracted over $800 million in investment in the past five years.

Silicon Savannah presents a fertile ground for high-impact investments whether in creative economy, mobile solutions and fintech sectors, areas where Kenya has shown global leadership.

It’s evident that, widespread use of digital platforms has reshaped communication, information access, and business practices, permeating various facets of Kenyan society, steering economic growth, promoting inclusivity, and elevating the overall quality of life.

One of the key drivers of digital transformation is our youthful population. With improved network connectivity, this demographic has spearheaded the evolution of digital outsourcing, creating new opportunities for job creation and development.

During this visit, it was clear that this growth will further be supported by initiatives like the United States' commitment of over $31 million to advance Kenya’s efforts in establishing a digital superhighway ecosystem.

This strong and growing innovation partnership is anchored in a shared commitment to investing in secure and resilient technology supply chains, building a skilled and technologically savvy workforce for the future, and promoting the digital economy and infrastructure.

For instance, the commitment to enhancing cybersecurity is evident in the joint effort by the US and Kenya to launch a cybersecurity operations platform to improve the security of our digital infrastructure.

As a country, our journey towards becoming a technological powerhouse is well underway. I believe with continued support from international partners and a thriving local tech ecosystem, we are on the path to achieving remarkable milestones.

This includes an initial pilot project to enhance the resilience of Kenya’s e-government services.

Such partnerships are a boost to Kenya’s digital superhighway program, which involves laying 100,000km of last-mile fiber-optic infrastructure and establishing digital hubs nationwide, with an aim to create a robust digital ecosystem.

Kenya's private sector, through Kepsa, is keen on fostering technology transfer initiatives tailored to Kenyan needs. This includes innovative city technologies, AI-driven agricultural improvements, and healthcare solutions. Collaborative research and development projects can lead to innovations addressing unique challenges and opportunities in our country.

Back here at home, Safaricom as a leading technology company is determined to fostering innovation, promoting inclusivity, and building a resilient digital economy. Not only to transform our own socio-economic landscape but also to set an example for other African nations.

The writer is Safaricom Plc chief executive officer.

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