Kenya is on the brink of unveiling major, innovative projects that will make ICT a centerpiece of the country's economy, according to Michael Macharia, the chairman of the Kenya Information Technology and Outsourcing Society (KITOS).
KITOS enables local ICT companies to engage with the government. Macharia, who is also the founder and CEO of Seven Seas, a local technology company, made his remarks at Kenya's first National Innovation Forum, held Monday.
Macharia said that KITOS and the government are working to: enable Kenya to have US$1 billion in ICT exports of software and hardware; establish a US$500 million venture fund for local entrepreneurs; and have ICT contribute 8 percent to Kenya's gross domestic product (GDP) by the year 2020.
"Kenya is at a great place. We have the right environment and the right opportunity. We are at a point where as a country, we can be the champions in Africa in terms of innovation," Macharia said
Macharia said that for this to happen, Kenya needs to have both private and government participation.
The Kenya ICT master plan, which was launched by the government in 2014, also seeks to find ways of making Kenya a technology hub in Africa by the year 2017.
According to the master plan, Kenya aims to be home to at least 55 global IT companies that will have 5 million or more users around the world. These companies will then in turn employ 180,000 Kenyans.
The master plan was a collaborative effort by the government and private stakeholders.
"For you to build companies that have over 5 million customers you need to build scalable businesses, you need to see opportunities beyond Kenya and at Africa and a global level," Macharia said.
Macharia said that the country needs to have a level of excellence in innovation for Kenya to move to the next level. He challenged the government, as it launches ICT projects in the country, to engage local talent and companies in implementing them.
"The challenge is how can we build the centers of excellence, how can we ensure that we build local intellectual property, how can we ensure that those projects create jobs and intellectual property that we can export," Macharia said.
The ICT projects have to be linked to centers of excellence such as universities and hubs to tap into local talent, Macharia said. This will also in turn improve the level of skills that are needed in the ICT sector in Kenya.
Macharia also announced a new venture capital fund, called Enterprise Kenya, to be set up by government and the private sector to fund local innovations in the country.
"It is a critical national intervention to help innovators succeed in their businesses," he added.
The National Innovation Forum is the first of its kind in Kenya and it aims to bridge the gap between government and ICT companies and innovators in the country.