Nairobi ranked the most innovative city in Africa, here is why


PHOTO | Jackson Mnyamwezi

Kenya’s capital Nairobi has emerged as the most innovative city in Africa according to Knight Frank Horizons Report 2021/22.

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The East and Central Africa commerce hub beat 500 other cities to claim the top spot beating rivals such as Cape Town, Johannesburg and Cairo.

Nairobi emerged the top performer in three components which include the number of start-ups, level of innovation funding and innovation infrastructure such as the number of research institutions.

Cape Town has been ranked second followed by Kampala, Cairo, Johannesburg, Dar es Salaam, Lagos, Dakar, Accra and Addis Ababa.

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“Innovation coupled with economic growth will drive the next decade of investment in Africa. Lower risk investors will likely favour cities with above-average innovation scores and a robust economy. These include Cairo, Egypt – the stand-out performer – and Johannesburg, South Africa. These cities have the greatest potential to remain economically resilient in the long-term despite undergoing short-term shocks,” said Tilda Mwai, Knight Frank Researcher for Africa.

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According to Knight Frank, as more businesses move their activities online as a result of COVID-19, demand for data infrastructure is expected to spike.

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“Cities that score higher for innovation but have less robust economies will attract those willing to take more risk, such as private equity investors. These cities include Nairobi, Kenya, Cape Town in South Africa and Kampala, Uganda.” Mwai added.

Additionally, with localisation of data in countries such as Ghana and Morocco is expected to realize continuous investment in data centres in Africa.

In terms of data centres capacity, leading markets such as Johannesburg and Nairobi have a total live IT power of 54.9MW and 19.04MW respectively compared to data centre hubs such as Dublin and London whose live IT power stands at 795.8MW and 728.25MW respectively.

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The report notes that Africa’s Data Centre markets can be categorized into three distinct tiers. Tier one markets include Johannesburg, Cape Town and Nairobi and already becoming Africa’s leading data centres markets.

Tier two markets such as Addis Ababa, Dar es Salaam and Kampala are essentially cities in the most populous of countries or those with strategic positioning while tier three markets are categorized as low population centres with relatively low ease of doing business.

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