Konza Technopolis – Investment Hub or White elephant?

I was following a chat on the Facebook about whether the Konza  Techno-polis to be built in the outskirts of the Kenyan Capital City Nairobi was really an investment hub or a white elephant; and I couldn`t help but be amused by how we human beings can be viewing a similar project from extremely diverse perspectives. But I posed for thought, and I appreciated our diversity in thought and rich analytical minds!

Konza City is famed to be the Kenya`s Silicon Valley where all technological innovations and probably inventions will be springing from in the near future. This is not only meant to make Kenya an IT hub, but also to make it the centre of excellence in IT among all African countries. Financially capital intensive infrastructural projects have been put up, and these are expected to attract foreign investors to get a share of this not-yet-baked cake.

But even before the ground breaking ceremony takes off, critics and analysts from the University of Nairobi – School of Business; are up to the task of scrutinizing the nuts and bolts of the whole project. Does one plus one add up to two, or eleven; as far as this project is concerned?

One of the analysts was of the opinion that this was simply a government well designed tag for Vision 2030, but which is disoriented by placing the horse before the cart. He says that the government should had first trained the youths to acquire skills in IT before erecting the techno-polis; so that once it is built, it will have people with the right expertise to fill it.

Another analyst seems to concur with the first one in all breath and height; but adds that this project is possibly for our 4th generation, and that we should do it in faith just for the sake of our great, great grandchildren and not for us by 2030. The first analyst happily marries the second analyst`s opinion, and adds that the benefits of the techno-polis will probably be felt when we are senior citizens of this country; when we shall be more concerned about obituary updates in the news papers rather than Facebook status updates. What a sad joke?

A feminine mind then comes into the scene. She teaches us to be skeptical of all government projects, and take them with a pinch of salt. This she says is obvious from our past history where the government has been known to be corrupt and tainted with bad governance. She however – as a lady and a future mum of our generation should – signs out by urging us to be hopeful and hold on to the dream.

We then get another masculine opinion in support of the first analyst`s opinion. The first analyst in trying to elaborate their opinion on how the project is placing the horse before the cart had said: “If you want to build a great football team, invest in great players, not a massive stadium.” Now this fourth analyst comes in to add more weight to the same by bringing in the issue of capital flight.

He passionately explains how we are trading everything to the foreigners and leaving our Kenyan people doing the “kazi ya mikono” only. He talks of leasing of infrastructure building to the Chinese, planning to the Europeans, HR and staffing to the Americans and to crown it all, we are importing all the machinery required from the same foreign countries.

Finally, I get into this heated discussion and I beg them all to allow me to differ in opinion from them. For me I see this as a great project whose time has come and which has the capacity to propel our economy into new heights of prosperity. I put my point across that we have enough talent in Kenya in IT and that this is evident from what has been happening in the IT hubs and labs within the city. Nokia actually came the other day shopping for application developers here in Kenya.

I then go ahead to explain to them, how we first need infrastructure before production for sustainable development. I try to add more weight into my argument by telling them that we need to have the techno-polis first, so that our youths who are undergoing training can get places to work when they graduate. I further explain to them that training the youths without the techno-polis would result to a rise in unemployment since the youths won`t have places to work.

On the footballers point, I try to make them see that for you to produce good players; they need regular up-to-standard training. And where do they get this training? Of course not in a lecture hall but in the stadia. I then help them see that having modern high class stadia would provide good training and playing grounds for the footballers who would be motivated even more. Simply put, you can`t sign in new players without a field for them to train and play in.

My argument leads me to illustrate that this high unemployment is not good for our economy due to the high dependency rate, and low incomes for those depended on in our country. But I could not sign out before letting them know that we could end up with human capital flight if our skilled youths never got jobs here at home. A good example I fail not to mention is the scramble for green cards and the recent migration to the Middle East in search of jobs.

All said and done, one thing was clear from the whole discussion; that though some of us might be having their own reservations, we all have a feeling that this project is a good one. Basically, I found out that we were differing mainly on the “How” of implementation not on whether we need the project or not.

I just don’t know your take on this, how do you view this whole KONZA TECHNOPOLIS CITY project?


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