If the future of computing lies in mobile and the fastest growth in mobile uptake will come from poor countries, Africa is where much of the action will be. Kenya, a stable country with an impressive history of investment in communications technology, has emerged as a leader in the region.
This month, Nairobi became the third African city after Johannesburg and Casablanca, and the 41st globally, to become home to an IBM “innovation center,” a co-working space with high-end equipment and visiting experts. Last week, GSMA, a mobile operators’ association and standards-setting body, picked Nairobi for its first African office. They add to the growing list of large tech companies establishing a base in the city. Google’s east African headquarters can be found in Nairobi, as can Microsoft’s. IBM has operated a research center in the city since August.
International attention is focused on Nairobi for the simple reason that a lot of the worldwide growth in mobile will come from Africa. According to GSMA, mobile connections in sub-Saharan Africa, home to some 900 million people, will hit half a billion this year and 750 million by 2018. The effects of mobile broadband can already be seen: it’s killing traditional internet providers in Ghana, and in countries like Zimbabwe and Nigeria, mobile accounts for nearly 60% of web traffic. The global average is 10percent.