Nairobi – The ‘Smartest City’ in Africa


‘Silicon Savannah’ paving the way for technological development across the continent.

In January, the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) announced Nairobi as one of 21 ‘intelligent cities’ predicted to prosper in the broadband economy. This is the second time Nairobi has been selected, although it failed to progress to the final short-list of the ‘top 7’ intelligent cities.

Nairobi, the only African city to make the short-list, is predicted to gain developed status within the next twenty years, a substantial change from the period following independence in which, according to ICF, it was seen as one of the most corrupt cities in Africa and still today many cite its high crime rates and traffic problems.


The Mail & Guardian Africa report that Kenya’s technology services sector has grown from $11 million in 2002 to over $300 million in 2013. By focusing on telecommunications Kenya is becoming the ‘go-to African market’ with a technologically minded young population and a supportive government.

CNN quote ICF co-founder Robert Bell as saying “We see a strong foundation being put into place [in Nairobi]: sensible, pro-growth government policy, a more diversified economy, and an innovation ecosystem of start-ups, international companies and universities”.

The Kenyan government’s inclusion of ICT development as a major part of its Vision 2030 plan and huge investments in a ‘technocity’ at Konza, just 60km from Nairobi, are growing signs of confidence in this development. Silicon Savannah, as it has been locally named, has caught the eye of many public and private investors including Google, Microsoft, Nokia and IBM.

Growth of the Mobile Phone Economy

Analysts have credited Nairobi’s rapid development to the liberalisation of communications. In 1999 Kenya’s fledgling mobile phone industry was held under a state monopoly and it was only once this monopoly was removed that new companies took advantage of the fruitful market. In contrast to Europe many emerging African economies do not have widespread land-line networks and the installation of digital networks is easier and more cost-effective.


In 2007 mobile phone operator Safaricom introduced the M-Pesa service that allows users to upload and transfer money using mobile phones. Today M-Pesa handles around $320 million in payments each month, a figure equivalent to a quarter of Kenya’s GDP. According to the Mail & Guardian Africa over half the population in Kenya now use the M-Pesa service and it has been observed that it is easier to pay a taxi fare by mobile phone in Nairobi than it is in New York.

In 2012 Safaricom introduced M-Shwari, a savings and investments service operated by mobile phone, accumulating a customer base of 7 million in two years and providing services to communities on the lowest incomes previously without internet access and banking facilities.

Nurturing Innovation and the Future of Smart Cities

A number of innovation and incubation facilities have been integrated into Nairobi’s urban culture. Following from the success of the iHub, an open space for the technology community that opened in 2010, many other initiatives have attempted to create breeding grounds for new ideas. One example is the 4Afrika Youth Device Program, for which Microsoft and Intel have partnered to provide technology, educational materials, data plans and financing.

ITWeb Africa report that IBM and the Kenyan government are working towards expanding the idea of a ‘smart city’ to include traffic control. Nicholas Nesbitt, General Manager of IBM East Africa told journalists that “IBM has a concept of smart cities. We are bringing that concept, technology and research to Kenya. And we are looking with our IBM research lab and the County government of Nairobi on ways you can use technology, data and analytics to improve the traffic “.

The future looks bright for Nairobi; with the increasing spread of 5G networks it is expected that Kenya’s place on the global economic stage will be further secured. 5G networks will bring performance for mobile internet on a par with fibre optic and compact, easily fitted antennae that will help connect the most rural areas and increase Kenya’s technological capabilities.

However some have urged caution with the ‘smart cities’ narrative; commentary from London School of Economics (LSE) observes that the growing positivity around smart urbanism in Africa should not draw attention away from the challenges of rapid urbanisation and stark urban inequalities. We need to push for greater understanding of the consequences of this data-driven urbanism.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

Rwanda – High Tech Hub?
Economic, Financial and Technical Series
Volume 50, Issue 10, Pp. 20174C 

Nigeria: Africa’s First Smart City
Economic, Financial and Technical Series
Volume 50, Issue 2, Pp. 19883 – 19884 

Telecommunications: Africa
Economic, Financial and Technical Series
Volume 50, Issue 1, Pp.19850C – 19851C

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today

Uganda – Aviation Development

A twenty-year aviation plan will need investment of $400m.



Four new international airports will be constructed in Uganda within the next 20 years with the aim of boosting the growth of tourism, air travel and the industrial sector.

According to the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the 20 year Aviation Master Plan (2014-2034) launched in late January, will see international airports established in Arua (West Nile), Pakuba in Murchison Falls National Park, Kabaale oil region in Hoima and Kasese in Western Uganda.

The Master Plan that was carried out by Spanish Consultants MS INECO will cost about $400m. This will include the $200m earmarked for the renovation of Entebbe International Airport with the construction of two more terminal buildings, cargo handling facility, re-tarmacking of the runways and putting self-service check-in counters.


Dr. Rama Makuza, the CAA Managing Director said with the expected 7.5% growth in air transport, the country cannot wait to be caught off guard by the growing numbers. He said they expect about 7.6m passengers to use the different airport facilities by 2034. Currently, Entebbe Airport handles 2m passengers with capacity to land a Boeing 747/400, East African Business Week reported.

Makuza said Arua International Airport will be fitted with all the necessary requirements to land an Airbus A380. Apart from the Entebbe Expansion project, where the government will solicit and fully fund it, the four new international airports will be developed under a Private Public Partnership (PPP) arrangement.




Africa – A Door Opens

An African-registered Team will Compete in the 2015 Tour de France.

In what looks set to be a turning point for cycling in Africa, an African-registered team will be featured for the first time ever in the 2015 Tour de France: South Africa’s MTN-Qhubeka received one of five wild cards on January 14th from race organisers.

To have a whole team in the Tour de France … for Africa and South Africa, it’s going to be huge,” MTN General Manager Brian Smith told VeloNews.

“The Tour team will be selected on merit but I’d hope to see the African riders there,” says Smith, who was appointed in 2014 to lead the team’s attempt to earn a place in the Tour.

MTN-Qhubeka, which made its Grand Tour debut in the Vuelta in 2014, was one of five teams to receive Tour de France wild cards and now join the 17 UCI World Tour teams that have already qualified for the world’s most prestigious cycling race that begins in July.

Africans on the nine-man MTN-Qhubeka team include South African Louis Meintjes and Eritreans Merhawi Kudus and Natnael Berhane, the two-time African champion. There are also riders on the roster from Rwanda and Algeria. Others on the squad include Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen, Australian Matthew Goss and American Tyler Farrar.

Natnael Berhane from Eritrea

Natnael Berhane from Eritrea

Team principal Doug Ryder told BBC World Service Sport: It’s been almost 10 years of hard work and getting people to believe in this project and to believe in African cycling and the potential.

“African sport has always been good, especially endurance running, and our theory was always if we can get more kids on bicycles in Africa, can you imagine how we can transform cycling because of the endurance running talent that has just been so successful over the last 30 years.

“For us to go to the Tour de France as the first African-registered team, that door will literally never close now.”

The team had previously stated its desire to mark Nelson Mandela Day on July 18th with a specially-designed kit if it was invited to take part. A special number 67 jersey will be produced signifying Mandela’s 67 years of service to South Africa, encompassing his years fighting apartheid, 27 years in jail, and five years as the country’s president between 1994 and 1999.

MTN-Qhubeka’s main sponsor is the South African telecoms company MTN, and the team is also backed by Samsung, Their other title backer, Qhubeka, is not a sponsor in the conventional sense but a volunteer organisation whose name means “progress”. It distributes bicycles to rural African children.


Nigeria – New Development Finance Institution


A financial package of $500m to support the establishment of the Development Bank of Nigeria PLC (DBN) has been unanimously agreed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group.


The package consists of loans worth $450m and an equity investment in the DBN of $50m according to the AfDB. The funds will be used to support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) operating in various sectors of the Nigerian economy.

As well as the AfDB Group, other international development financial institutions such as the World Bank (with a commitment of $500m according to THISDAY newspaper), KfW of Germany ($200m) and the French Development Agency, Agence Française de Développement (AFD) are collaborating with the Federal Government of Nigeria (itself providing $200m) to set up the DBN.

“Recognizing the limitations of the existing development finance institutions (DFIs) in Nigeria, the Federal Government has decided to establish a DFI, which will be better regulated and more clearly aligned with development priorities,” PANA quoted Project Team Leader Sofiane Sekioua as saying.

Stefan Nalletamby, Director of the Financial Sector Development Department at the AfDB Group, said: “The MSME sector is critical to the development of the Nigerian economy as it possesses great potential for employment generation and output diversification.

“MSMEs in Nigeria cover the entire range of economic activity; nevertheless, there has been gross under-performance of these enterprises and this has undermined their contribution to economic growth.

“Among the issues affecting their performance, the shortage of finance, particularly investment finance, occupies a very central position. Therefore, through the DBN, the AfDB Group will contribute to mobilizing significant long-term financing to an important yet under-served sector with high development potential.” The Director also emphasized the critical role that the AfDB Group had played in the design of the DBN and the important role that it would play in its corporate governance as one of its founding shareholders.

Nigerian Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has described the proposed bank as a key part of the President’s vision for the country to realise the economy’s potential.

“We want to create an institution that can make wholesale long term finance available to our young entrepreneurs, our businessmen, our industrialists so they can grow their businesses sustainably, create jobs and contribute to the economic development of the country,” she has been quoted as saying.


Cote d’Ivoire: New Bridge in Abidjan

The newly-opened Henri Konan Bedie bridge will ease traffic congestion in the country’s economic capital, Abidjan.


KKB bridge

Thousands of Ivorian pedestrians and motorists flocked to Abidjan’s new toll bridge on December 21st as the long-awaited crossing, which is expected to boost trade in the world’s top cocoa producer, opened to traffic.

The 1.5 kilometre-long bridge is the third road link across the lagoon in the country’s economic capital.

A flagship government project years in the making, it cost €270m ($330m) to build and links the posh northern suburb of Cocody to Marcory, where the seaside city’s port is located.

It is the first major infrastructure project since the former star French colony was ravaged by a low-lying civil war between 2002 and 2004 that sliced the country in half, wreaked havoc on the economy and dragged the Cote d’Ivoire into turmoil for a decade.

Abidjan, which adjoins the Atlantic Ocean, is built around the Ebrie lagoon. It had only two bridges before and they were badly choked. Traffic in the city centre was often gridlocked as a result.

The third bridge, which is also an expressway, will significantly cut travel time to the port area. Experts say this is important in a city which has a huge hinterland, serving several landlocked countries in west Africa.

Built by France’s Bouygues group, the toll bridge will cost motorists between CFA francs 500 and CFAf 1,000 (€0.76 to 1.52), Infrastructure Minister Patrick Achi said.

He defended having a toll bridge in a country where the vast majority of the population is poor, saying the savings in petrol costs thanks to a shorter and more fluid route would more than offset the costs.

The bridge, named after former Ivorian president Henri Konan Bedie, was partly funded by the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), a Nigeria-based fund which aims to finance infrastructure projects in Africa. Other funding came from the African Development Bank (AfDB; the West African Development Bank (BOAD); the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID), the Moroccan Bank for Foreign Trade (BMCE) and the Dutch Development Bank (FMO).

Africa Check – Africa’s first fact-checking website hits a million visitors


Africa’s first independent fact-checking website Africa Check, launched two years ago to promote accuracy in public debate and the media, announced in December that it had hit a million visitors.

Crossing the million mark “is symbolic for us”, said Africa Check editor Julian Rademeyer. “It is reaching a milestone moment in the number of readers.”

The main point of the website is to promote transparency and push for “accuracy in public debate, and encourage honesty of politicians,” he said. Through a network of researchers spanning the continent, the organisation checks facts pronounced by politicians, business leaders or in the media, verifying them and then publishing their findings.

It has over the past two years published over two hundred guides, factsheets and reports casting a critical eye on fake health cures, water quality exposés, and the effect of gun control legislation on murder rates.

“We had a number of cases where changes have been made,” following some of the exposés, said Rademeyer. “It’s a way of checking claims made by public officials. It’s holding them to account. It gets people to interrogate the claims that have been made,” he said.

The website was set up by the AFP Foundation, the non-profit media training arm of Agence France-Presse, in October 2012 with seed money from Google.

It operates in partnership with South Africa’s prestigious University of the Witwatersrand’s journalism department and a core team of researchers based in Johannesburg,

Modelled on similar lines to US and European websites such as, it also features a guide for identifying fake “facts”.

Most of its readers are from the continent, with the majority drawn from sub-Saharan Africa’s three largest economies — South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya — but users are also recorded from Europe and the United States.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin. Subscribe today.


Egypt unveils renovated Tutankhamun gallery


The Egyptian government on December 14th unveiled four newly renovated halls of the celebrated Tutankhamun gallery in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo as the facility undergoes a complete overhaul.

The halls, opened by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, house treasures from the tomb of the 19-year-old boy king which were unearthed in 1922 in the temple city of Luxor. Tutankhamun’s tomb had been untouched for some 3,000 years until the British archaeologist Howard Carter found it after years of fruitless excavations making it one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the 20th Century.

The renovation of the halls located at the eastern entrance of the Tutankhamun gallery is part of a seven-year project to refurbish the entire museum overlooking Tahrir Square, and in turn revive downtown Cairo. The renovation works have been aided by funds from the European Union and other international donors.

James Moran, who heads the EU delegation in Cairo, said the bloc supported the project in order to help to boost Egypt’s tourism sector whose “revival… is fundamental for the economy”.

He said the EU would offer 92,500 euros ($115,000, £73,300) in 2015 to help renovate the eastern wing of Tutankhamun gallery.

The Egyptian Museum houses the largest collection of pharaonic artefacts and has witnessed several alterations since it was first opened in 1902.

Four years of political turmoil since the ouster of veteran leader Hosni Mubarak has battered the country’s economy amid falling tourist revenues and investments.

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 125 other followers