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Kenya is building a $95m technology institute at Konza to end its looming ICT skills gap

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Kenya is known globally for two things-as a land of innovators and a land of runners.

After the advent of M-PESA, new innovations have been developed rabidly to drive faster growth and efficiency for businesses and society However, there is a general lack of digital skills.

A 2018 LinkedIn report found that 4 of last year’s top five emerging jobs were in machine learning, cryptocurrency, Software as a Service and Artificial Intelligence (AI). But companies are finding it hard to fill this roles because employees don’t possess these skills and most of them don’t have digital literacy skills.

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This digital skills gap could cost the UK £141 billion in GDP growth and much more to developing economies according to Accenture. Every other profession is also going digital including agriculture which has seen the entrant of new technologies such as soil sensors and drones.

It’s for this reason that the Konza Technopolis Development Authority (KoTDA) has partnered with KAIST, the first and top Korean science and technology university founded through a six-million USD loan from USAID in 1971 to launch Kenya’s-KAIST by 2021.

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Since November 2018, KAIST, has been part and parcel of the planning and implementation process of Kenya’s first advanced institute of science and technology (KAIST). The Korean institute has led the economic development plan with the provision of science and technology education consultancy for the establishment of institution.

With a $95 million economic development cooperation fund loan from Korea Eximbank, the Kenyan government is sure to have the first batch of 200 graduate students starting classes in 2022 at the campus set to be constructed at the Konza Techno City.

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Korea’s KAIST is now working with other stakeholders, local and international, to develop academic curricula for Mechanical Engineering, Electrical/Electronic Engineering, ICT Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, and Agricultural Biotechnology which will be the
six initial departments to lay the groundwork for engineering research and education in Kenya.

KAIST will also do a backgrounder to basic science areas of math, physics, chemistry, and biology for Kenyan students. With these graduates out, the Korean and Kenyan government will then have a knowledge base of scientists, technologists, and innovators to achieve what Konza Techno City was set up to do.

The graduate-only university will act as a growth engine in the center of the Konza Technopolis, which aims to become a space for technologists, innovators and scientists. These will go ahead to start global tech firms that will create 16,675 jobs in the medium term and over 200,000 upon completion, positioning Kenya as an ICT hub globally.

A report from the National Academy of Sciences in the US described KAIST as an exemplary case in which a former recipient of international aid has grown to become a science, technology and innovation leader. KAIST has become a donor institution that passes on science and technology education systems including the construction of campuses to developing countries and it has been acclaimed as US AID’s most successful foreign aid project.

Korea- KAIST has shown its capacity to innovate and spin off successful ventures such as Samsung and LG. In 2014 Korea- KAIST was ranked third place in the Times Higher Education’s “100 Under 50” ranking of the world’s best universities, less than half a century old. In June 2017, Reuters named it “Asia Pacific’s Most Innovative University” for the second year running.

Setting up Kenya -KAIST is purposed to provide high-quality education in Science and Technology in order to generate high-skilled engineers and scientists with both theory and practical knowledge, and to conduct socially relevant research and development (R&D), to improve national competitiveness and transform Kenya into an industrializing middle-income country as envisioned in Kenya Vision 2030 agenda.

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