IBM has opened its first IBM Innovation Center in East Africa based in Nairobi, Kenya, in a move to help fuel growth and innovation in the region, providing IT partners, developers, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and academics with access to the latest enterprise software and hardware, training and business and marketing support. The IBM Innovation Center is co-located with a new IBM Client Center that brings IBM’s expertise to clients in the region.
The goal of the new IBM Innovation Center is to nurture and grow regional IT innovation and help startups and new business IT solutions get to market faster. The center is focused on solutions that use analytics, mobile and cloud technologies to solve key local and global challenges such as traffic congestion and better energy management. Center attendees will be able to participate in virtual and in-person training, test out their new products, network with peers from around the world, and receive mentoring and guidance from IT and business experts.
“Technology is playing a critical role in building stronger Kenyan and East African economies,” said Mugo Kibati, chief executive officer, Kenya Vision 2030. “IBM is an essential partner in helping us create a vibrant network of highly-skilled individuals and businesses, who are driving innovation for Africa and the world.”
The information and communications technology (ICT) sector has driven up to 40 percent of the economic growth in East Africa in the past 10 years according to World Bank’s InfoDev. In Kenya, the IT industry is expected to grow by 11 percent annually, creating a need for highly-skilled professionals capable of driving IT innovation and entrepreneurship. As a hub for ICT skill development and innovation, the center will serve as a launch pad for the ideas and solutions that will shape the IT landscape in the future, and play a key role in progress towards the East African community’s joint development goals.
“The new IBM Innovation Center is an important milestone in our expansion and work in East Africa,” said Tony Mwai , country general manager IBM East Africa. “The advanced IT and business recourses at the Center will strengthen our climate of innovation and get new East African Solutions into the global marketplace.”
The Nairobi Center joins a worldwide network of 40 other IBM Innovation Centers in 33 countries, including Morocco and South Africa. Through this network, IBM connects local companies and entrepreneurs with technical and industry experts around the world and can support growth with introductions into new markets.
As part of efforts to drive innovation, IBM is working to support and develop an ecosystem of IT professionals in Kenya, including:
- Academia: New partnerships with Jomo Kenyatta , Riara and Strathmore universities to create advanced educational and training environments were recently announced. With this growing relationship, students and professors will have access to advanced IT coursework, training materials and software for use in the classroom. Bringing the latest enterprise technology and challenges into the classroom, students will be better prepared to meet the advanced IT and business needs of the region.
- Entrepreneurs: Working closely with partners in the venture community, IBM is supporting local startup companies and entrepreneurs to drive innovation and help get new solutions into the global marketplace. Last year, IBM held its first SmartCamp event in Africa, providing mentoring, networking and resources to startups from across Africa. Kenya-based startup MoDe went on to win the regional and global final events and was named IBM’s entrepreneur of the year.
- Venture Capitalists & Incubators: Through ongoing workshops and meetings, IBM is working closely with the growing local venture capital community and local incubators and accelerators to identify and support entrepreneurs and startup companies.
- IT Companies: Technical workshops, one-on-one support from IBM experts and access to software and hardware for testing are helping local IT companies develop offerings and better meet client demands. Lime Technologies Ltd., Open World and Tezza Ltd. are among the new IBM Business Partners to benefit from the resources at the IBM Innovation Center.
Nairobi is also home to IBM’s first Research Lab in Africa which is driving a program of Pan-African research designed to help solve some of the continent’s biggest challenges such as urbanization, next generation public sector and human capacity development.
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