Nigeria may be falling behind in Africa’s ICT development race following Kenya’s choice as International Business Machines (IBMs) new facility domain – the first in Africa.

Justification for this trepidation arouse because despite the 168 million population and $270 billion economic factor working for Nigeria, the American ICT and software company bypassed it to launch its first facility in Africa with $34 billion economy Kenya, a country about the size of Nigeria’s commercial city, Lagos.

ICT development improves productivity growth and business performance. World Bank estimated that every 10 percent of incremental broadband penetration will result in a 1.38 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate.

Experts however argued that the reason for Kenya’s selection is not left to chance as the country has been investing massively in ICT development over the years following its quest to be Africa’s IT hub. Progress towards this achievement is coming to bear with the country’s establishment of  its own Silicon Valley, Konza, a 5,000-acre site which will eventually be a cluster of technology companies plus a university. Kenya is also a global leader in mobile money, with its  MPESA service.

Although Nigeria also declares the desire to follow in this step, with its credibility as having the largest number of internet users in Africa (according to International Telecommunications Union data), Services strategy manager for IBM, Osamuyi Stewart, said, “Kenya is very advanced – they were ready for this in terms of know-how.”

Business Day also quoted Nigerian developer at Digital Craft Studios, Francis Onwumere, to have said that, “Kenya’s tech scene did not just explode over-night, they had it coming…they invested in competence and they are reaping the benefits.”

Nigeria’s proposed Silicon Valley, Abuja Technology Village which was conceptualised in 2004 and expected to cost $400 million to create “Africa’s preferred technology research, incubation, development, and outsourcing destination,” is only 55 percent complete some eight years later.

Meanwhile, IBM announced last week that it will be collaborating with the Kenyan Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) to open the first of its research labs in Africa. Each party will be contributing $10 million of funding over the next five years.

IBM president Ginni Rometty met with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki to mark the announcement.

The ICT giant’s Kenyan laboratory will seek to develop technology-assisted solutions to the problems of Africa’s fast-growing cities.

The lab will explore three key research areas, including the next generation public sector, creating smarter cities with a focus on water and transportation and the development of human capacity.

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