Plans by the Kenyan government to establish science and technology parks across the country have moved a notch higher after the University of Nairobi was awarded a tender to design a 10-year master plan for the establishment of the parks as well as incubators.
The university partnered with Singaporean firm Frost & Sullivan, a company said to have knowledge in consultancy and design relating to science parks, in a tender bid that also attracted other Kenyan universities.
Kenya’s oldest university used the University of Nairobi Enterprises and Services – the institution’s investment arm that runs its income-generating ventures – to bid for the job which the government exclusively reserved for local universities on condition that they partner with experienced international firms.
“The university constituted a project team comprising ICT, planning and business professionals drawn from various schools in the university,” said Peter Ngau, project team leader and a member of the university’s college of engineering and architecture.
Under the contract – the value of which has not been made public – the university and its partners are required, in addition to producing a 10-year master plan, to draft designs for the Konza Technology City, and Dedan Kimathi University of Technology science and technology parks, where the government intends to set up the first parks.
Konza Technology City, dubbed the country’s 'Silicon Savannah', has been on the government’s agenda for years but has never taken off for unexplained reasons. It is due to be established on hundreds of acres of land 100 kilometres south of the capital Nairobi.
The partners will have up to three months to complete the park designs, plus the master plan, before they are handed over to the government for review and adoption.
According to documents drawn up last September by the State Department for University Education, the objective of the master plan is to develop regional business plans as well as design physical infrastructure “necessary to promote a knowledge-based economy”.
It is envisaged that the parks will encourage cooperation and synergy between universities, research institutions and the private sector to create a favourable environment for innovation and training.
Government documents indicate that the 10-year master plan will be implemented in phases, eventually contributing significantly to the development of the country’s economy, generating knowledge, creating employment and facilitating open access to new markets.
The park designs are required to promote synergy among firms operating in the parks by providing common service centres and exploiting economies of scale.
The parks are intended to attract clean, high-technology, knowledge-intensive industries, generating new income and business opportunities.
The University of Nairobi and its partner are required in their plans to define which economic-financial model, including a public-private partnership, would be most appropriate for the parks, and state the different players that should be involved in implementing the master plan.
The parks are part of a Kenya Science, Technology and Innovation Policy and Strategy paper developed in 2008 to guide and promote integration of science, technology and innovation in all sectors of the economy.
Kenya has ambitions to become a technology and innovation-led economy and has been taking steps in that direction by nurturing an ICT-led innovation culture spearheaded by young people and exploiting the mobile phone revolution spreading across Africa.
International ICT firms, including United States-based technology giant IBM, have already set up regional headquarters in Nairobi to tap into the innovation culture.
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