During three days in August, 7th to 9th, I attended the first investors conference for Konza Technology City, in Nairobi, Kenya. The conference was very well attended, with more than 500 people from both the local business community in Nairobi and many international participants.
The venue was the Kenyatta International Conference Center in the central business district of Nairobi. It is a venue for conferences, meetings, exhibitions and special events within a walking distance of most central hotels and I have been there many times before during my years in Kenya.
As I arrived to the center together with my colleague Jörgen Eriksson and Sten Gunnar Johansson, CEO of Mjärdevi Science Park, we visited an exhibition area with exhibits showing the strong local interest for Konza. Then the conference opened with the national anthem played by an orchestra.
Seating had been arranged for us in the front row so we had an excellent overview of the room and the close proximity to the speakers.
During the morning of day 1, key officials gave introduction speeches and opening remarks. Mugo Kibati, Director General of Vision 2030 was the first, and Dr. Bitange Ndemo, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communications was speaking thereafter.
Also Vice president Kalonzo Musyoka was one of the first speakers and he advised investors to seize the opportunity that comes with Africa’s Silicon Valley that is the Konza Technology City. The Vice President restated the government’s commitment to making the African Silicon Savannah -Konza Techno City dream a reality, noting that the ICT city is one of the flagship projects of the country’s vision 2030. He said development of basic infrastructure for the city will be financed as well as construction of prerequisite utility facilities.
At the end of the morning session, Kumar Kintala, Director of HR Advisors in New York gave a key note address of the master planning process. In the photo on the left he is together with Dr. Catherine Adeya.
HR Advisors have been contracted to run the next phase in the development of Konza, which is a six months planning phase prior to starting development.
After this speech my colleague Jörgen Eriksson was invited up on stage to participate in responding to a questions and answers session together with Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Director Mugo Kibati, Paul Kukubo, who is CEO of the Kenya ICT Board and Dr. Catherine Adeya. The Q&A session was led by the Master of Ceremony Wallace Kantai.
Located in Linköping, Sweden just an hour and a half southwest of Stockholm, Mjärdevi Science Park is an attractive home for 260 innovative companies employing more than 6,100 people. Mjärdevi offers a broad base of support and activities to encourage and stimulate growth and success among its companies — from start-ups to multi-nationals.
A well-balanced combination of entrepreneurial and industrial competence is essential for the growth and development of every company. According to Mr. Johansson, at Mjärdevi, there are no limits on a company’s opportunity to continually improve, develop and grow. The park offers a stimulating and developing environment for knowledge-intensive companies. Regardless of a company’s size or stage of development, Mjärdevi offers access to experienced and professional business advice, finance, and internationalisation.
Mr. Johansson spoke about his best practice experience in creating and growing a science park and also about the success story of the Swedish innovation system.
Since its creation in 1984, Mjärdevi Science Park has grown from 8,000 square meters with six companies to today having 190,000 square meters office space with 260 companies, with 75% of them being startups and SME´s.
A key success factor has been the well-functioning Swedish innovation system with the government, the city of Linköping, the local Linköping University and the business sector and entrepreneurs cooperating in making the science park a success.
According to Mr. Johansson, there are five key factors to sustainable innovation and to the success of science parks and smart cities, being:
The following speakers were Dr. Jean Marie Cishahayo, talking about experiences from China, Professor Antonio Augusto Fröhlich, talking about experiences from Brazil, Gangsuk Suh, presenting an example of the planning of a new city in South Korea and Mr. Ahmed Nosrat Aly Fahmy Naim, presenting the concept of Smart Villages from Egypt.
The conference also covered topics such as financial funding models for the city and the context of government action plans and infrastructure development regarding water and irrigation, energy, roads and railroad, with the Permanent Secretaries of the respective departments making presentations.
The visionary and driver behind Konza Technology City, Dr. Bitange Ndemo was optimistic and engaging during the final speech where he summarized the conference and also answered questions from the audience.
On the third day of the conference, Thursday August 9th, we were invited to a site visit to the Konza Technology City area. Konza is located in the Machakos and Makueni districts, in the south-eastern part of Kenya, which is approximately 60 kilometers south east of Nairobi, on the Mombasa road.
The city-to-be derives its name from a small settlement named Konza, which is 4 kilometers to the south of the proposed city. The settlement has a railway station on the main Nairobi – Mombasa line.
Below is a video with footage from the first day of the conference.