Devolving tech innovations from Urban To Rural

Students in The Innovation Hub
Students are pictured in one of the Innovation Hubs in Nairobi.

Rural to urban-city migration continues unabated driven by the obvious concentration of government functions and perceived opportunities for income generation to the larger publics.

While it is indeed true that cities are the site for majority consumption and have for the past few decades become the defacto hubs for product and service distribution, I believe that following devolution, the true opportunities for value creation should be slowly ebbing back to the ‘smaller’ adminstrative centres.

What is needed however is catalytic action from county governments keen to drive economic growth for those under their jurisdiction by both empowering those resident there and attracting talent and investment from traditional centers of capital as domiciled in cities.

In the early days of the Silicon Savannah when only a handful of labs were working to nurture a burgeoning technology sector, critical voices rose against the concentration of these hubs and labs in Nairobi and the major Cities of Kenya.

I did find these criticisms uncalled for since, first these labs were very much startups themselves looking for product fit and second the fundamentals were in place to reduce risk on investment. No one stopped or hindered the adoption and roll out of the various operational templates that have overtime been iterated on and refined, to other locations around the country. The only blinder that many had and still have on, is the definition and feel of the technology play that they wish to be associated with.

Beyond the bits and bytes that make up visible disruptive technological innovations, the harder work and by extension better value lies in plugging into more factors of production that still lay locked in traditional supply chains with sectors like agriculture, manufacturing and logistics holding immediate promise of value realisation.

County governments should not be making outside trips to attract foreign direct investments to dress up manifestos and politic. Instead they should incentivise local investments by deliberately creating enabling environments and where possible direct capital support under smart public private partnerships and regulatory pass-throughs. Think establishment of special zones for business with licensing or tax holidays under certain criteria, access to government assets like idle land, descent housing projects for a discerning talent pool and policy support at national level on items that would create competitive moats for those who choose to base operations there.

Each region has unique business opportunities and could lead to specialisations that seed companies that go on to dominate regional or pan-African trade in those verticals.


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