The International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation has opened a research lab in Nairobi, Kenya, the first in Africa, which is expected boost the country’s ability to develop, attract and retain key research scientists and ICT experts.

Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki and IBM Global CEO, Ginni Rometty signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday officially flagging-off the setting up of the lab which should be operational next month.

“IBM’s commitment to undertake the proposed research agenda will contribute greatly to our national priorities as part of Kenya’s Vision 2030. We look forward to delivering world-class research and innovation through the partnership and playing an important role as an IT leader on the African continent,”said President Kibaki.

The government will partner with IBM East Africa by providing the necessary environment and facilitate setting up the lab at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Langata, Nairobi.

IBM Research – Africa will join existing labs in Australia, Brazil, China, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Switzerland and the United States. The Research laboratories are credited with the creation of many of the foundations of information technology, including the invention of the relational database, disk storage, DRAM memory and much more. IBM Research has been recognized with five Nobel Prize Laureates, and many leading scientific and technical medals and awards.

The lab will establish an international recruitment program to reach Kenyan and other African applicants with the aim of attracting top research and development talent to work side by side with IBM researchers in the lab,” said Rometty.

Information and Communications Ministry permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo said the project is a five year arrangement in which the government will contribute about $2 million every year and will have a share in copyrights resulting from work done.

IBM choosing to come to Kenya is very big for us in the sense that we’ll look at how we can make our youth employable, especially those coming from university. The IBM research lab, will not only rubber stamp Kenya as Africa’s leader in ICT, but will help the country to transform into a knowledge based economy,” said Ndemo.

IBM said operations at IBM Research, Africa will commence immediately while expansion into other parts of Africa may be considered in a second phase.

“IBM has had a presence in Africa for more than 60 years and we are now taking our presence to a new level. As we build a great workforce in Africa that is aligned with national goals and help governments and industries envision and build Africa’s future, we are establishing a foundation for IBM’s long-term success,” said Anthony Mwai, Country General Manager, East Africa.

Dr John E. Kelly III, IBM senior vice president and director of IBM Research said the firm will work with Africa’s leading scientists.

“ We plan to work closely with leading African scientists and engineers from academia, government and industry to address some of their most pressing challenges and greatest opportunities.” said Dr Kelly III.

Key research areas that will be explored by IBM Research , Africa will include next generation public sector to help advance e-government capabilities, smarter cities with the initial focus on water and transportation and human capacity development to boost the innovation culture in Kenya.


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