TECHNOLOGY

Smart City: Development at Konza takes shape as 40% sold off

So far Phase One of the project has attracted over 40% uptake by investors.

In Summary

• The investment will be done through a 99-year land leasing on maximum and 20 years on minimum.

• It is estimated that on completion of phase 1, some 20,000 direct jobs will be created with 12,000 residential units being put up.

The completed and occupied Konza complex
The completed and occupied Konza complex
Image: PATRICK VIDIJA

The Konza Technopolis, previously called Konza Technology City, is a large technology hub planned by the government.

Located 64 km south of Nairobi on the way to the port city of Mombasa, the project is marketed through Kenya ICT Board as a key driver of Kenya's national development plan, known as Kenya Vision 2030.

Estimated to cost the government about Sh1.2 trillion, as of January 2019, the project appeared to be far behind schedule.

Dubbed "where African silicon savannah begins",  it aims to attract business process outsourcing, software development, data centres, disaster recovery centres, call centres and light assembly manufacturing industries; and build a university campus focused on research and technology as well as hotels, residential areas, schools and hospitals.

 It is also intended to include a science park, a convention centre, shopping malls, hotels, international schools, and a health facility.

The project rests on a 5,000-acre piece of land lying in three counties of Machakos, Kajiado and Makueni.

This provides excellent connectivity through land and air.

So far Phase One of the project has attracted over 40% uptake by investors.

With over 1,000 workers on-site, horizontal infrastructure including roads, parks water and sewerage treatment plants through tunnel technology and automatic garbage collection systems are taking shape.

The investment will be done through a 99-year land leasing on maximum and 20 years on minimum.

It is estimated that on completion of phase 1, some 20,000 direct jobs will be created with 12,000 residential units being put up.

The Star has learned that 15 investors out of the 26 who expressed interest in the project have been approved.

This includes Craft Silcon and Bigen Global limited.

Principal Secretary ICT  Jerome Ochieng said some of the investors expected to break ground include hospitals, real estate developers and institutions of higher learning, government agencies such as National Construction Authority and KETRACO (Kenya Electricity Transmission Company) among others.

The PS said the National Construction Authority (NCA) is in the process of setting up a Centre of Excellence for the country’s construction industry and the construction of the project will soon kick-off.

He has urged investors from both the private and the public sector to consider taking up the investment opportunities early enough, adding that partnering with investors will boost the country’s efforts towards the realisation of the Konza dream.

He said Smart Manufacturing, Light Industry Logistics, Smart Agriculture, Property development, ICT & IT Enabled Services, Pharmaceutical Services, Education and training institutions, Hotels and Convention Centres, Entertainment, recreation and sports facilities and Business enterprises are among opportunities available.

According to the PS, the world has been grappling with the challenges relating to urbanisation and overpopulation which are leading to the degradation of natural resources together with climate change.

He said the world is also moving towards a knowledge-based economy in which the role and significance of knowledge as an input in economic processes has fundamentally changed and actually taken the center stage.

“As a result, governments across the world has been exploring and adopting the Smart Cities concept to promote sustainable urban development and also come subdivision of the natural resources,” he said.

Ongoing construction of horizontal infrastructure
Ongoing construction of horizontal infrastructure
Image: COURTESY

He added, “The government of Kenya sought to answer these challenges through the establishment of the Konza technopolis Development Authority corridor as a special purpose entity to facilitate the development of the smart city as a key flagship project under the Kenya vision 2030 economic blueprint”.

He said the mission of Konza technopolis Development Authority is to ensure the technopolis grows into a sustainable world-class technology hub and a major contributor to economic growth, intellectual capacity, innovation, as well as research and development.

 “The key objective of this strategy is to develop and manage a world-class smart city with a vibrant, safe and secure, healthy, sustainable ecosystem with the technology as its backbone,” he said.

“To achieve this, the government has committed, Kenya shillings 80 billion to this project for the development of the core infrastructure in order to facilitate investments by the private sector,” Ochieng added.

The PS said Konza has been designated as a special economic zone the reason being to promote the uptake of investment and also give an opportunity to spur economic growth through information and communication technology.

The authority has so far completed and occupied the Konza office complex.

This he said is indeed a major milestone that afforded legitimacy and actually confidence to the project.

He said currently the project is focusing on the development of the horizontal infrastructure, which is approximately 50% complete and is expected to be finalized by December 2021.

“As part of its phase one, this primary focus on the development of the horizontal infrastructure seeks to ease onboarding processes for investors, provide standardised amenities to all investors as well as minimise disruption to other investors during the development of new vertical infrastructure and facilities,” he said.

He said KoTDA has also secured funding for a feasibility study for the establishment of a digital media city within Konza.

The Digital Media City seeks to promote the development of Kenya's creative industry, through draining research and innovation in the digital media and entertainment industry.

“We have taken cognizant of the fact that in order to address issues and challenges relating to unemployment we need to focus on the entertainment industry, focus on issues relating to media and research and that space provides a very great opportunity especially for young people to actually grow and develop strengths,” the PS said.

He said Konza under the Dubai multi-commodity center intends to explore the viability of a partnership to operationalise a special economic zone, provide an E trade platform and also develop a collaboration mechanism to attract business and enterprises in the Konza technopolis.

Ongoing construction works at Konza
Ongoing construction works at Konza
Image: COURTESY

“The Cabinet has already approved a dual-pass porting system whereby if you're within konza, then you can easily trade with the Dubai,” he said.

He added, “You will note that the Dubai multi-commodity center is the leading center for trading international commodities and the world's fastest-growing free zone and we seek to benchmark with them and also develop Konza into one such hub within the region”.

His sentiments are echoed by KoTDA CEO John Tanui who maintains the development is on course.

Tanui said this includes street-scape and sub-surface utilities, drainage facilities, water supply distribution system, wastewater collection and reclamation facilities, electrical power supply, public parks, and public facilities.

“The art of city making involves ensuring that there are movements in different directions all of them supporting one another. We cannot wait until everything is in place before we create this symbiotic support system that is supported by the other and we become an organic living thing because cities are living things,” Tanui said.

He said the 40 per cent uptake by investors is an illustration of the confidence in the commitment the government has made in actualising the project and also the steady progress being witnessed in the development of the infrastructure.

“However, there is still plenty more to be done to ensure that we deliver the country and the region's fastest smart and sustainable city,” he said.

He said 70% of the new values created in markets over the next 10 years will be on digitally enabled business platforms.

“Smart cities will be the key drivers of innovation with Digital business models and also disruptive technologies that will fast track the digital economy and accelerate this new value creation,” he said.

Sosian Energy Chief Executive Officer Shaun Nzambuni said the company, which is one of the pioneer investors in Konza is providing solar power and waste power which will lower cost of power and cost of doing business at Konza Technopolis.

“Konza is going to lead ICT development. It is going to be a centre of expertise in the decades to come. The initiative taken by the Government some years ago is an excellent development for the country and we are proud Sosian is part of it. We are confident we will be able to provide significant energy savings for the people who invest in Konza City,” Nzambuni said.

Ongoing construction at Konza
Ongoing construction at Konza
Image: COURTESY

He added, “I think this is the future and a good innovation because the youth of today don't do window shopping. Their window shopping is through scrolling and use of smart technology. So I just see it as a great opportunity for Kenya to set a standard on the continent”.

He said for a center where technology companies and technology skills for education, right through to health care, as well as development, can all be in one single point and feed off each other, it is important that these sorts of centers are set up so that the skills can thrive as a community, rather than be spread all over, Kenya itself.

CEO of GS1 Kenya, Peter Otieno said Konza is a smart city and for one to have a smart city two things must be in the place that is; smart infrastructure and development and smart investors.

“So we are actually having smart investors and smart infrastructure to form a smart city, but within a smart city, you need one aspect. How do you track, how do you communicate? You must have smart communication techniques or technology,” he said.

He lauded the project, terming it a thoughtful and great innovation.

ICT CS Joe Mucheru said the current political cooperation between the government and opposition has been a good boost to the development.

Mucheru said partners and organisations are gearing to set up at the Technopolis.

"We have different partners who are already setting up their vertical infrastructure which includes universities, hospitals and accommodation facilities," Mucheru said.

He said if it were not for the political goodwill and good partnerships with communities and Government ministries, the work that has been done so far wouldn't have been realised.

"Of importance is the smooth and seamless integration of teams working on the project. This is a government project requiring the support of every ministry in order for it to succeed," he said.

Mucheru said the current Covid-19 pandemic had delayed some work but activities around development have started to regain momentum.

He spoke when he toured the project.