Silicon Valley is unquestionably the world’s largest tech hub, home to many startups and global technology firms. Several promising tech startups springing up around Africa and the battle to claim a particular region on the continent as the proverbial ‘Silicon Valley’ of Africa. Until recently, Rwanda has proven to be one of the world’s fastest-growing economies as it constructs the Kigali Innovation City (KIC) which is poised to become Africa’s own Silicon Valley.
The Kigali Innovation City, a Private-Public Partnership between the Rwandan government and Africa50, an infrastructure investment platform, will serve as Africa’s Silicon Valley. The construction of the KIC will cement Rwanda’s position as one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa.
Innovation, the hallmark of economic productivity will fuel Africa’s digital transformation from agrarian economies to knowledge-based economies. This flagship project is, therefore, one of the key enablers that will help achieve Rwanda’s long-term vision of economic development.
Location of the Kigali Innovation City
The Kigali Innovation City sits on a hill overlooking the rest of Kigali from Kigali’s Special Economic Zone. The $2 billion project will host world-class universities, tech companies, and biotech firms. It will also house commercial and retail real estates, all on 70 hectares of land.
Africa50 will, therefore, pump $400 million into the project. This amount will help boost the innovation ecosystem in one of Africa’s top knowledge cities, Kigali.
Under the arrangement, Africa50 will, therefore, focus on developing and financing a “Digital Innovation Precinct.” This Precinct will house the KIC technology companies and residential facilities for the employees working for these companies.
Many have tried but failed
South Africa was once regarded as Africa’s core technology hub, due to its outstanding infrastructure and sophisticated investment market. However, the story changed as multinational corporates started moving to other fast-growing African countries like Kenya, Rwanda, Mauritius, and Tanzania.
Certainly, this is not the first time an African country is attempting to build a ‘Silicon Valley’ on the continent. But it is no doubt, the most remarkable.
In 2008, Kenya’s government approved the construction of the Konza Techno City, an IT-focused “smart” metropolis which never materialized. The plan was to transform a 5,000-acre stretch of grassland in the outskirts of Nairobi into a “Silicon Savannah.” This is a city of 200,000 with world-class facilities for higher education, life sciences, business process outsourcing, and telecommunications.
Similarly, in 2013, RLG Communications CEO, Roland Agambire, announced plans to build a $10 billion tech hub in Prampram in Ghana’s capital city, Accra.
If this plan comes to pass, there will be great fortunes for Africa as a whole to realize. For Rwanda, the benefits would be immense. And if there’s such a thing as an African version of California’s Silicon Valley, Rwanda could be leading the race.