Tour of Nairobi – Africa’s Silicon Valley
Tech tourism was an alien term to most people till Mark Zuckerberg came to Nigeria last August. His visit created so much buzz and more exciting was the fact that he came like a thief in the night. Absolutely no one knew about his potential visit (well except the people involved with the purpose of his visit) and he seemed to have an amazing time. He didn’t come in to see any waterfalls, visit beaches or any attractions, he came to see the Silicon Valley of Nigeria.
“I’m meeting with developers and entrepreneurs, and learning about the start-up ecosystem in Nigeria. The energy here is amazing and I’m excited to learn as much as I can.” Mark Zukerberg was reported to have said.
After this visit, we learnt that tech tourism was the latest travel craze and people, geeky or not, flock San Francisco to visit the tech giants in Silicon Valley.
According to ibitimes.co.uk “…locals are noticing an increase in tourists deliberately visiting the valley, almost as a sort of digital pilgrimage and San Francisco companies are scrambling to cater to this new demand.”
Nairobi is without a doubt the leading tech city in Africa and we recently visited the city solely for tech tourism. The Kenyan tech ecosystem is mature – built on trust, relationships amidst the start-ups and openness. Unlike the Nigerian founders, Kenyan tech founders are very open to sharing their stories, how they started, how they got funded, profit made, loss if any and mistakes. Our daily routine involved interaction with key tech players in the country.
Our first stop was Nexus CoWork space, a beautiful co-working space for start-ups providing power, internet, events and meeting rooms. We met interesting personalities, shared ideas and played games.
We visited the iHub that has since 2010 been home to over 16,000 entrepreneurs across Africa with successful start-ups standing as results. We had a walk around the building visiting GearBox (a hardware hub) with intensive focus on research and development and providing solutions to human problems that are hardware-centric.
We later moved to Ushahidi – one of the founding start-ups in the city whose name cannot be brushed aside when writing the tech story of the city of Nairobi. The company is focused on data gathering and creating datasets for different purposes.
Nairobi Garage had the biggest space amidst all the coworking spaces we visited, housing a lot of start-ups solving problems ranging from healthcare to entertainment and there seems to be a lot of energy in there.
We also visited Andela Kenya which was coined from the name Mandela, after the renowned former South African president.
The student community wasn’t left out in our splendid tour, as Nairobi University houses tech hubs like C4DLab and Fablabs. Strathmore University is also home to iBbiz Africa, where numerous inventions are born and companies are growing.
On a general note, the Nairobi tech ecosystem is good for maximum productivity as power and internet provision are quite stable but most importantly, the community is a place that fosters growth for entrepreneurs that have all the basic ingredients to fulfil their dreams.
It was an extremely enlightening and exciting trip. Tech tourism is an exciting area of tourism and with the great minds in Nigeria, we can key into it.