Courtesy Konza Technology City

The Kenyan government wants to build its own tech hub

Hopefully you've been following TheAtlantic.com's ongoing special report, “Start-Up Nation: The Search for the Next Silicon Valley.” The premise is that, despite the success of Silicon Valley, it needn’t be and isn’t the only place where start-up companies can flourish and where technological innovations can arise. This map looks at other innovation hubs in the U.S., based on various rankings of patents, start-ups, entrepreneurs and people with college degrees. Our own Richard Florida writes that “the geography of start-up America is spreading, slowly and gradually, but inexorably” – and many of those hotbeds of innovation are popping up in the South. And beginning October 23, Senior Editor Alexis Madrigal will be road-tripping through the South, with stops in Richmond, Raleigh-Durham, Savannah, Atlanta, Chattanooga, Shreveport, and New Orleans, to see some of these innovation hubs and the companies they’ve spawned firsthand.

Halfway across the world, another "savannah" could one day soon be the subject of a similar journey. At least, the government of Kenya is hoping so, as they perpare to build a city from scratch that will be the continent’s “Silicon Savannah.” Konza Technology City aims to become a new hub for business and innovation, with technology and financial services as the primary drivers. The city will have office space for a variety of industries, with a goal of creating 200,000 jobs. There will also be 35,000 residences built on site. As of right now it’s dirt.

The empty 2,000 hectare site – about 8 square miles – is 37 miles from the capital city of Nairobi, and 31 miles to Jomo Kenyatta international airport. The idea is to phase development in over the next 20 years, which is also part of the country’s Vision 2030, a plan to create a “globally competitive and prosperous Kenya.” The government intends to create a Special Economic Zone to encompass this new city, which is planned for development through a public-private partnership. In total, it’s expected to be a $7 billion project.

Development is no doubt needed in Kenya, where nearly half the population is in poverty and the gross national income per capita is $790, according to the World Bank. But this new city approach seems to run counter to the trend explored in the Start-Up Nation series. Place is without a doubt crucial to the development of new businesses, but the spread of innovation hubs throughout the U.S. seems to indicate that having one single Silicon Valley, or Silicon Savannah, might not be the right view. The Konza Technology City plan may end up working for Kenya, who knows. But it’s also tempting to think that the project’s $7 billion investment might be better used to incentivize the sort of tech businesses the government wants to create, rather than creating a purpose-built city where they may potentially emerge.

h/t @ehooge

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Design

    New York City Will Require Bird-Friendly Glass on Buildings

    Hundreds of thousands of migratory birds smash into the city’s buildings every year. The city council just passed a bill to cut back on the carnage.

  2. a map of future climate risks in the U.S.
    Maps

    America After Climate Change, Mapped

    With “The 2100 Project: An Atlas for A Green New Deal,” the McHarg Center tries to visualize how the warming world will reshape the United States.

  3. Perspective

    Why Car-Free Streets Will Soon Be the Norm

    In cities like New York, Paris, Rotterdam, and soon San Francisco, car-free streets are emerging amid a growing movement.

  4. photo: a commuter looks at a small map of the London Tube in 2009
    Maps

    Help! The London Tube Map Is Out of Control.

    It’s never been easy to design a map of the city’s underground transit network. But soon, critics say, legibility concerns will demand a new look.

  5. photo: A man boards a bus in Kansas City, Missouri.
    Transportation

    Why Kansas City’s Free Transit Experiment Matters

    The Missouri city is the first major one in the U.S. to offer no-cost public transportation. Will a boost in subsidized mobility pay off with economic benefits?

×