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Aug 24, 2012

$7bn Konza City the latest in a slew of mega-scale Kenyan projects

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Over the past decade, Kenya has unveiled an array of infrastructure projects and in October the East African country will commission the first super highway built by Chinese companies at a cost of $350-million.

The Nairobi–Thika super highway, a 50 km 12-lane project, seemed far-fetched when the Kenya government contracted three Chinese contractors to construct it five years ago. But its completion has left many Kenyans marvelling from not only its design but also the impact it is having in terms of connecting the country’s capital, Nairobi, with the economically rich eastern part of the country.

Other mega projects have since been unveiled. Two of them, the $24.6-billion Lamu Port–South Sudan–Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor project and the $1.2-billion 280 MW geothermal power projects, are the largest infrastructure projects of their kind ever undertaken in Africa.

Despite the enormity of the two projects and the resources required to actualise them, Kenya has not shied away from conceptualising other projects that just a decade ago would have seemed far- fetched.

One such project is the Konza Technology City. Dubbed the Silicon Valley of Kenya or the African Silicon Savannah, the $7- billion project seeks to put Kenya on the global map in as far as developing futuristic cities is concerned.

“Konza Techno City is a strategic opportunity for Kenya to spur the growth of economic activities that fuel higher- value employment generation and growth. This is one of the key Vision 2030 flagship projects,” Information and Communications permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo tells Engineering News in an interview.

He adds that the project aims to trans- form Kenya into a knowledge-based economy that can compete with countries like India, particularly in terms of business process outsourcing (BPOs).

The project is part of East Africa’s leading economy’s push to create special economic zones (SEZs), which will be central in enabling Kenya to attain middle-economy status by 2030.

Earlier this month, Kenya organised an investors conference whose aim was to showcase the investment opportunities in the gigantic project to both foreign and local investors.

The conference came soon after government had awarded the contract to manage and develop the project to US firm HR & A Advisors, an industry- leading real estate, economic develop- ment and energy efficiency consulting firm that shrugged off competition from the likes of AECOM International Devel- opment, of Finland; Sweden’s Sweco International; Dohwa Consulting Engin- eers, of South Korea; and the US’s SHoP Architects.

During the conference, potential investors got a feel of what exactly Konzo Techno City will be. Sitting on a 5 000 acre piece of land some 50 km from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, the city is expected to be a technology and knowledge hub that will also encompass economic activities like finance, commerce, tourism and conferencing, and real estate, besides others.

Konza Techno City will be akin to Egypt’s Smart Village or Mauritius’ Ebene Cyber City.

“This project will be critical in trans- forming Kenya into a knowledge-based economy able to produce high-quality jobs for Kenyans,” says Kenya Vision 2030 Delivery Board director-general Mugo Kibati.

Already government has secured the land where the project will be built in four phases over the next 18 years.

The first phase involves the building of BPO/information technology-enabled services (BPO/ITES) facilities, commer- cial office space and hotels, residential properties and large-scale shopping malls. There will also be recreation and entertainment venues, a film and media centre, a financial district, a university, a research and convention centre, information and communication technology infrastructure – including fibre-optic networks – transportation infrastructure and a hospital.

Phase 2 to Phase 4 will entail the con- struction of BPO/ ITES parks and commercial and residential buildings, besides others.

“The city is masterplanned as one of the most sought-after international com- mercial investment opportunities,” says Ndemo, adding that ground-breaking is slated to take place before end-year.

To ensure the project is implemented, government has requested the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation to be in charge of the tendering process for the various projects, a move that is intended to foster investor confidence.

“Government is focusing on policies to remove constraints to fast-track eco- nomic growth and create an enabling environment for stronger private-sector participation,” says Kenya VP Kalonzo Musyoka.

The Kenya government also plans to construct a dual-carriage road to link the techno city with Jomo Kenyatta Inter- national Airport as well as a mega dam to supply the city with water.

A public site development authority, the Konza Technopolis Development Authority, is also being established to oversee the planning, infrastructure development and land allocation in areas surrounding the city.

A 10 km buffer zone has been imposed to regulate development and land use around the city. The buffer zone will not only protect the investments envisaged but will also provide for orderly and progressive development of human settlements to promote sustainability.

At least 200 international companies have expressed interest in investing in the project.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
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