Some have asked “Why Kenya?” and “Why now?”
My excitement for Kenya surrounds the opportunities for early stage businesses who have a reasonably stable economic base from which to launch, myriad new tools at their disposal, and a massive, and growing population with increasing purchasing power - not all of these points are true of all developing economies!
So: Why Kenya, and Why Now?
1) Kenya has a robust non-extractive based economy. With Kenyan GDP comprising 40% of the region’s GDP, Nairobi is the economic capital of east Africa, with a stock exchange, and many corporates’ regional (or continental) headquarters. Most importantly, however is the stability - Kenya’s economy is not based on extractive industries such as mining or fossil fuel extraction - it's based on agriculture and services. I believe this makes Nairobi a bit more robust to external inputs as compared with neighbors. (Note the 25% overnight growth of GDP due to rebasing.)
|Nairobi skyline (source)|
2) New technology adoption has been very rapid in Kenya. This will likely continue to enable quick, massive improvements in lifestyle, healthcare, agriculture output, financial inclusion / services, communication. As landmark examples, please see success of M-Pesa (mobile money), and the numerous, successful on and off-grid solar/distributed power generation products.
|M-Pesa and Bitcoin (to a much lesser extent) are in use in Kenya (source)|
|Off-grid solar is massive business in east Africa, including Kenya; |
some key players are M-Kopa, d.light, Greenlight Planet, SunnyMoney, Off-Grid Electric, and Azuri (source)
3) Kenya has (debatably) the fastest, cheapest, and deepest penetration of internet on the continent. Wow, what an advantage in a continent where infrastructure seems to be always lacking. In Nairobi, new business incubators are all around, with the iHub proving an invaluable epicenter of activity for software-based startups, and the upcoming Gearbox promising similar excitement and opportunities for hardware startups. Prevalent and affordable internet is enabling collaboration like never before.
|Internet penetration in Kenya is high relative to continent neighbors (source)|
I should note that the above are *my* reasons for being excited about Kenya; plenty of other groups have published their own reasons:
- The Brookings Institute writes about “Africa’s Powerhouse” (hint: Kenya!)
- Recent STELLAR article about social enterprise in Nairobi, at BusinessWeek
- Kenya Economic Report 2013, by Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis
- CIA World Factbook, Kenya
Of course there are other reasons to love Kenya; so come visit!