As it appeared in the Daily Nation on January 22nd 2019
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu
Eleven years after its approval by the government of Kenya, many Kenyans are yet to see the fruits of Konza City. As the first mega Science and Technology Park in this region, the great idea of Konza City brought with it lots of excitement. Described as Africa’s Silicon Savannah, Konza city was and still is expected to stimulate the establishment and development of many innovative companies. Today, Konza Technopolis Development Authority (KoTDA) under the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology is overseeing development and management of Konza City. With construction works having started on site in 2018, there is renewed hope that this dream might one day come true.
I believe that establishment of Science and Technology Parks in Kenya is long overdue. Silicon Valley linked to Stanford University and considered the pioneer Science Park was established in 1951 as an Industrial Park. Over the last five decades, hundreds of other Science and Technology Parks have been established globally and their number is still growing. The highest concentration of these parks remains in the USA, with China having the fastest growing parks and Africa lagging behind. China for example set up its first park the Zhongguancun Science Park in 1988. Today, Zhongguancun has established several parks within the park and has over 20,000 high-tech businesses such as Lenovo. In Kenya, besides the incubation centres that have been set up in some universities and by private sector players we are yet to witnesses fully established Science and Technology Parks. In addition to Konza City, the National Government in Kenya is supporting the establishment of the second National Science and Technology Park at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology (DeKUT). According to Dr. Kamau Riro the park’s director, the DeKUT Science and Technology Park is taking shape and already key anchor-tenants have secured their space.
What are Science and Technology Parks? Science and Technology Parks are infrastructures set aside to foster a culture of innovation and knowledge sharing between businesses and academic institutions. They are set up in locations that provide high quality space and facilities as well as incentives to grow businesses. These parks are behind some of the greatest technological advancements in the world. Most of these parks are associated with research universities that act as their knowledge partners. Within the parks, governments, universities and the private sector collaborate by combining scientific and business activities. In many countries, Science and Technology Parks have supported the progression of research outcomes from universities into viable commercial products.
In Kenya, both the national government and county governments need to do more in supporting the establishment of Science and Technology Parks. The benefits of Science and Technology Parks are alluded globally. It is through such parks that both businesses and universities associated with the parks will build their regional and global competitiveness. In addition to commercialisation of technology, these parks provide shared resources, access to high calibre research and development staff as well as a wide range of business support services making them an ideal set up to grow businesses. There is no doubt that such parks are an engine for economic development through the jobs they create and the products and services they produce. As a country, we need not lag behind!
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy