Nairobi is East Africa’s digital innovation hub

Posted on January 20, 2015 01:30 am

Smartphone subscribers in Kenya are expected to increase to more than 7 million by 2017, out of a total of 3 million according to 2013 estimates. Currently, smartphone penetration in Kenya varies between 20 and 30 per cent depending on the mobile network operator. Kenyan youth segment is a crucial driver in mobile-app adoption as well as smartphone usage, especially in the developing markets, as these people are very active in new trends and information and communications technology services. Currently, Kenyans aged 10-25-years age segment are the largest population group, and there are around 20 million young people in Kenya. In Kenya, young people are more active in using smartphones for multiple purposes, from basic services such as voice and texting to Internet browsing, using social media, and watching streaming video. Also in Kenya, youth actively use messaging apps such as Viber, WhatsApp because their features allow them to coordinate their activities with different social-media groups, undertake private chatting with groups of friends, and access social-network platforms.

The Kenyan capital Nairobi skyline
The Kenyan capital Nairobi skyline

Some also provide games, digital stickers, and music sharing.Youth culture in areas like Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, urbanisation, and the growth of smartphone are the three key trends driving ICT growth in Kenya, Africa’s ninth largest economy. Your blogger believe if mobile operators in Kenya collectively support and hand start-ups an opportunity to create and develop applications or solutions that are useful and make Kenyans lives more convenient, easier and faster, the East African country will cement its digital innovation hub reputation.This year, Safaricom has teams of participating start-ups who have amazing and innovative products. Some of them started out by trying to find a problem and finding the best way to resolve it. As studies have shown, the young generation is very technology savvy, and Kenya has over five million social media users as of June 2014 statistics. Kenya smartphone penetration is growing so rapidly that technology-wise, users have whatever people in Western countries have. Additionally, the country is one of the top countries in Africa in terms of the number of social media users. There is no doubt that Kenyan start-ups have the potential to grow and form one of strongest communities for start-ups in the region.

From my decade plus work experience in the software industry, I think it is the right time for start-ups in Kenya and greater East African region to experience exponential growth in technology during the next few years. In 2014, mobile internet usage jumped almost three times from 13.8 per cent a year earlier to 39.7 per cent. Nairobi has the most Facebook users in East African region, with over 1.2 million users out of a population of 3.5 million. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Mombasa International Airports are among the top most popular shared places on Instagram in East Africa. Twitter recently revealed that Nairobi was its sixth-largest market in Africa and first in East Africa, with more than 150,000 active daily users. The extreme growth of internet and online application usage is largely the result of lower prices for smartphones, improved network quality and coverage, and increasingly popular social applications such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. These are all the reasons why start-ups should focus on mobile applications and online services. Online services reach a wide range of users and create an excellent opportunity for start-ups to connect with their customers and to market and sell their products and services.


Contador Harrison