IBM Invests in Kenya creating one of Africa’s Key Innovation Center Ecosystem

Earlier this month, IBM opened its first Innovation Center in East Africa, which is a hotbed of start-up activity, and an emerging center of innovation. Located in Nairobi, Kenya, the center will help accelerate growth and innovation in the region, providing IT partners, developers, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and academics with access to the latest enterprise software and hardware, training and business and marketing support. The IBM Innovation Center is co-located with a new IBM Client Center that brings IBM’s expertise to clients in the region. IBM has been doing business in Africa since its equipment was first used in South Africa in 1921. In recent years, the company has expanded rapidly on the continent and today has offices in more than 20 African countries.

As part of efforts to drive innovation, IBM is working to support and develop an ecosystem of IT professionals in Kenya, including Academia, Entrepreneurs, Venture Capitalists & Incubators. In Africa, building innovation ecosystems has also become an imperative for governments and business communities. Kenya has emerged as an ideal location for such an ecosystem  to take shape, as it has gained a reputation as the startup capital of Africa. A half dozen small innovation hubs and incubators have been launched in the past three years, and the city seems is teeming with entrepreneurs. The first and foremost of the tech hubs, iHub, provides a model for other organizations around Africa that want to plant the seeds for innovation and entrepreneurship.

iHub is an open space for the technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in the area. This space is a tech community facility with a focus on young entrepreneurs, web and mobile phone programmers, designers and researchers.

In an interview, for African Business Magazine, Dev Program Coordinators, Ellen Olafsen and Jonathan Coony has this to say

“Kenya has emerged as a regional powerhouse for mobile innovation. As an illustration, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt visited Kenya and four other countries in the sub-Saharan African region in January 2013, and he only had words of optimism about the region and its burgeoning technology industry. He also visited the iHub and infoDev-supported mLab (mobile applications laboratory, based at the Nairobi iHub)” 

IBM has been investing heavily in Kenya, in the last quarter of last year its first research lab was opened at Catholic University of Eastern Africa.The facility, IBM’s 41st global innovation center, will work closely with iHub Nairobi as the link to the developer community and with existing IBM channel partners interested in testing their products and services for the market. The goal of the new IBM Innovation Center is to nurture and grow regional IT innovation and help startups and new business IT solutions get to market faster.

The center is focused on solutions that use analytics, mobile and cloud technologies to solve key local and global challenges such as traffic congestion and better energy management. Center attendees will be able to participate in virtual and in-person training, test out their new products, network with peers from around the world, and receive mentoring and guidance from IT and business experts. “Technology is playing a critical role in building stronger Kenyan and East African economies,” said Mugo Kibati, chief executive officer, Kenya Vision 2030.  “IBM is an essential partner in helping us create a vibrant network of highly-skilled individuals and businesses, who are driving innovation for Africa and the world.”

According to World Bank’s InfoDev the information and communications technology (ICT) sector has driven up to 40% of the economic growth in East Africa in the past 10 years. In Kenya, the IT industry is expected to grow by 11% annually, creating a need for highly-skilled professionals capable of driving IT innovation and entrepreneurship.

As a hub for ICT skill development and innovation, the centre would serve as a launch pad for the ideas and solutions that shape the IT landscape in the future, and play a key role in progress towards the East African community’s joint development goals, according to IBM.

Follow the conversation about the IBM Innovation Center in Nairobi on Twitter at: @iic_nairobi or #IBMNairobi

source/Image credit: IBM Communications.