The Kenya ICT Board has launched a US$1.6 million partnership with private tech business incubator NaiLab as part of efforts to support small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and build the country’s economy.
The public private partnership (PPP) incubator programme will provide support – in the form of work space, mentorship, business coaching, and industry connections – for SMEs working in the ICT sector.
30 businesses will be hosted on site at the NaiLab, which won the contract through a competitive process which saw 16 companies bid for the partnership. Another 100 companies will receive online assistance over the three-year period for which the incubator’s initial trial will run.
“The growth of Kenya’s economy is pegged on how many profitable businesses we are able to build and sustain. This project displays the government commitment towards supporting SME’s and growing Kenya as an ICT destination,” said Dr Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Information and Communications.
The incubator will consider applications from companies operating within the ICT sector but which have unique business concepts that have the potential to impact on Kenya’s socio-economic environment. Applicant companies must not be older than five years old.
“Our objective has been and will always be to stimulate innovations and encourage entrepreneurship in Kenya, with the signing of this contract with the Kenya ICT Board; we will be able to reach out to other parts of the country, all grass root problems cannot be solved using ICT, but innovation includes creating new more effective processes and we hope to play our role in that,” said Sam Gichuru, chief executive officer of the NaiLab.
The partnership comes at a time when the Kenyan government is pushing intensively to position the country as a technological hub for the region and Africa, with President Mwai Kibaki having launched the Konza Technology City at a groundbreaking ceremony yesterday.
The technopolis is intended to boost Kenya as a premier ICT location, attracting local and foreign investors and creating jobs in the region.
As identified by the ICT Board on announcing the NaiLab partnership, the success of Konza and grander plans to craft Nairobi into a tech hub will depend on addressing the prevalent difficulties for businesses on the ground.
“Innovation, a strong talent pool and entrepreneurship will be the cornerstone of the smart city success,” notes the board.
“The incubation addresses many of the gaps that have been identified in SME high failure rate. These gaps include increasing the capabilities of the entrepreneur in terms of soft skills, technical skills and business skills, business counseling, access to affordable services and facilities, access to SME finance, better linkages with both the academic community and industry, and quicker commercialization of innovations.”