Israel’s ‘startup city’ Tel Aviv is helping Kenya to build its first tech hub in the new city of Konza, just outside the capital Nairobi. The ambitious, $14.5 billion project will feature a science and business park, convention center, shopping malls, hotels and international schools, among other facilities. The new smart city will be built on 5,000 acres of land, about 37 miles south of Nairobi.
In the coming months, the City of Tel Aviv – which was named the world’s smartest city and is home to hundreds of startup and high-tech companies – will host entrepreneurs and developers from Kenya to meet with Israeli experts in order to “create urban and technological models for the new city.”
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Headed by Tel Aviv Global, the city also plans to host seminars and meetups with local startups, in order to foster collaboration between Kenya and Israel, and connect Israeli startups that market to African countries with the founders of the new city of Konza.
According to Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai, “Tel Aviv is one of the world’s main technology entrepreneurship centers, with the highest concentration of startup accelerators, and a vibrant entrepreneurial community that has drawn techies from all over the world. We’ve been fortunate to collaborate with the developing world in recent years on projects that lead to creating innovative smart cities.”
Israeli companies have been involved in Africa for years, but the Holy Land’s own transition into a modern country can contribute to budding technology centers around the globe. “Within two generations, Israel has transitioned from a developing country to a developed country, and this makes our ecosystem attractive to the developing world,” Eytan Schwartz, CEO of Tel Aviv Global, said in a statement. “We’re pleased to make a positive impact and serve as Israel’s ‘ambassadors’ in the world.”
‘Techno City’ in the heart of the African Savannah
Kenya approved plans for the new city Konza, which is expected to be completed in 2019, about three years ago. In the initial phase, the city will be home to 30,000 residents and offer 17,000 jobs. By 2030, it is expected to grow to 200,000 residents and add thousands more jobs.
But the Konza smart hub, dubbed “Silicon Savannah’ or ‘Techno City,’ has also had its share of criticism. Some say the $14.5 billion investment in building the city should, at least partly, go towards funding local startups. Other critics say Konza is located too far from the bustling capital Nairobi.
“Konza City will play a critical role in building a knowledge-based economy”
Albeit ambitious, the project is undoubtedly groundbreaking. City planners designed Konza as a smart city, by integrating communication networks into the urban fabric, so that city services will be automatically linked to the infrastructure, businesses and residents. An advanced system will collect data from sensors in different locations to efficiently serve dwellers and business people in the fields of transportation, events, public safety, environment and more.
According to Joseph Mucheru, the cabinet secretary in Kanya’s Ministry of Information and Communications, “Konza City will play a critical role in building a knowledge-based economy that will shift the current industrial development path towards innovation – where creation, adoption, adaptation and use of knowledge will drive economic growth.”