Nairobi now ranked as best African city

Tuesday February 10 2015

An aerial view of a section of Nairobi city. Nairobi is the most intelligent city in Africa, according to an international think tank, just three places behind the world’s top seven finalists. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

An aerial view of a section of Nairobi city. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

VINCENT ACHUKA
By VINCENT ACHUKA
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You may not like certain things about Nairobi — traffic jams, matatu chaos, whatnot.

But it is the most intelligent city in Africa, according to an international think tank, just three places behind the world’s top seven finalists.

Had it made it to that top league, the Kenyan capital, ranked tenth overall, would have qualified for the next round, in which world cities will compete for the 2015 Intelligent Community of the Year Award.

The contest, which is on its tenth year, is organised by the Intelligence Community Forum to recognise the achievements of cities that have built inclusive and prosperous economies based on information and communication technologies.

Nairobi was the only African city on the short list of 21 hubs worldwide for 2015.
This is the second year in a row that the capital has made it to this short list, and apart from Cape Town in 2008, no other African city has achieved that. Intelligent Community Forum co-founder Robert Bell said, in a statement, that Nairobi made it to the list because of its level of innovation.

“We see a strong foundation being put into place in Nairobi: sensible, pro-growth government policy, a more diversified economy, and an innovation ecosystem of startups, international companies and universities.

“The city is also one of two sub-Saharan cities likely to achieve developed status within 20 years.  If the prediction proves true, it will mark a sharp positive turn at the end of a very long road,” he said.

The opening up of communication, especially through the fibre optic cable and a widespread use of mobile money transfer services, especially M-Pesa, were among Nairobi’s strengths in the rating.

According to the think tank, M-Pesa, which handles US $320 million (Sh29 billion) in payments monthly, equivalent to a quarter of Kenya’s GDP, is responsible for driving mobile phone penetration to nearly 70 per cent. 

In the process, it has activated economic activity by introducing banking services to low-income earners in towns and rural areas. 

Incubation centres like I-Hub and the Chandaria Business and Innovation Incubation Centre were also mentioned.

Arlington (US), Astana (Kazakhstan), Aurora (US), Changhua (China, Ohio (US), Iowa (US), Edmonton (Canada), Ipswich (UK) and South Dakota (US) are the cities that beat Nairobi.