Global Opportunities

Silicon Savannah: Tapping the Potential of Africa’s Tech Hub

At the forefront of Africa’s emerging tech landscape, Kenya is rapidly attracting international business to the economic potential of its innovative ICT sector. Swiss companies should not miss the opportunity to be part of this pioneering tech ecosystem.

fintech hands world map

Silicon Savannah

Kenya has one of the fastest growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa and has laid out an ambitious plan to become an upper middle-income country by 2030.  It has a population of just under 50 million people, with an urban population that is young, well-educated and English-speaking.  And, according to the 2017 Africa Wealth Report, Kenyans are among the wealthiest people in the continent. All of this, along with its increasing diversity of industries and its strong trade links with neighbouring countries, makes Kenya a natural platform for foreign companies looking for an entry point into the region.

EY’s Africa Attractiveness Index 2017 named Kenya as the second-most attractive investment destination in Africa together with South Africa and after Morocco.  As the region’s hub for Financial, Communication and Transportation services, ICT has been identified as the key to growth in Kenya. Indeed, Kenya is a strong contender for early 5G deployment, given its emphasis on cultivating a technology-based economy. 

Global Investment in Silicon Savannah

Known as the Silicon Savannah, Kenya’s thriving tech scene is home to the most cutting-edge startups on the continent.  Africa’s lack of formal infrastructure has served as a catalyst for the country’s technological explosion.  Boasting one of the fastest mobile internet speeds in the world thanks to its undersea fiber optic cable, Kenya is now characterized as a truly connected landscape. Its $1 billion tech ecosystem offers an attractive space for entrepreneurs, investors and technologists, with established firms such as Facebook, Microsoft, IBM and Intel having found a home in this cradle of innovation.

Kenya offers myriad opportunities to Swiss companies who are able to meet an African need with a sophisticated ICT solution.  One of the best local examples is the game-changing mobile payments service, M-Pesa. The product converted even the most basic cell phones into bank accounts and secure money-transfer devices without a large expansion of banking infrastructure. Today, the country’s fin-tech solutions are pioneering the way in terms of cross-border banking and micro financing.  Around half of the world’s registered mobile banking accounts are located in the region, with services such as M-Pesa placing Kenya at the forefront of the emerging fin-tech industry, a sector, Swiss companies can definitely contribute to.

Another example worthwhile mentioning is VirtaMed, a Swiss company that provides state-of-the-art virtual reality simulators used to train Kenyan physicians on a simple birth control procedure that can be performed in less than 10 minutes, and local medical professionals have reported widespread success of the simulator in medical training.

Opportunities for Swiss Tech SMEs

With the creation of the iHub innovation centre in Nairobi, Kenya birthed Africa’s hub movement, inspiring the upsurge in tech hubs across the continent. The sector offers a unique opportunity for Swiss companies to engage with techies who understand the local environment and can partner to create dynamic solutions.

Industry analysts forecast continued growth within Kenya’s ICT market, and increased connectivity is expected to create a number of opportunities for innovative Swiss tech companies.

  • Growth industries include financial services, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, agriculture, mining, tourism and wildlife
  • Internet of things (IoT), AI, cloud solutions and data analytics
  • Mobile enabled video-gaming services and internet based television
  • Corporate IT solutions and internet security
  • eLearning solutions and virtual reality simulators particularly in healthcare
  • Drones for good