January 21, 2021
Kenya’s digital journey: Where are we now, and where are we going?
By Tonny Tugee, SEACOM East and North East Africa Managing Director
Kenya’s ICT sector has seen a 10.8% average annual growth since 2016, making it one of the fastest-growing tech environments on the continent. This success can be largely attributed to various innovations in our digital space, with the ICT sector on track to creating 250,000 jobs and contributing up to 8% of the GDP by the end of 2020. Kenya has firmly established itself as a digital trendsetter in Africa, but how far have we come on our digital journey? Let’s have a look at some notable developments and partnerships that have been implemented and how they may shape the future of Kenya’s digital environment.
Mobile payment platforms
After the launch of Safaricom’s M-PESA in 2007, Kenya has not only emerged as a leader in mobile payment platforms, but has also driven its economic growth through financial inclusion. Fuliza, a service that lets users with insufficient funds borrow money to complete their transactions on M-PESA, processed over KES 6.2 billion in transactions in its first month, and its total loans rose by 30% when the pandemic hit East Africa.
Microloan platforms like Fuliza have empowered millions of Kenyans who would otherwise not have had access to finance, and it therefore comes as no surprise that Safaricom contributed 6% to our GDP in 2020.
Connectivity is undoubtedly a cornerstone of digital transformation, and Kenya has many projects in place to realise nationwide connectivity. The Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology has started constructing a 630 kilometre high-speed fibre optic cable that will benefit communities, government, and businesses in the North Rift region of Kenya, as well as promote cross-border trade with South Sudan.
SEACOM has partnered with Vodacom to reach more business clients across Africa, and we’ve doubled the capacity of our subsea cable system, allowing more African businesses to access game-changing tech like cloud computing.
These advances in connectivity will lead to noticeable improvements for Kenyan citizens and businesses when it comes to access to and the capability of any Internet-reliant technology. Connectivity is not just necessary for digital transformation; it can act as an economic catalyst – but only if it’s fast and reliable.
While Kenya is considered a continental leader in digital technologies, manufacturing’s contribution to GDP has declined over the last decade. President Kenyatta is hoping to raise its GDP contribution from 9.2% in 2019 to 20% by 2022, and ICT adoption has been recognised as a key factor in improving the sector.
The Kenya Association of Manufacturers has launched a policy framework to improve digital capabilities, foster competitiveness, and manage digital change in an inclusive way – which can be seen in its call for women to take part in the manufacturing industry. Kenya’s manufacturing industry still has untapped potential, as a Syspro study found that only 11% of our manufacturers were fully automated, meaning there is much room for growth.
70% of Africans rely solely on agricultural income, and with a growing population, farmers are struggling to keep up with demand. Fortunately, digital tools are beginning to replace manual processes and online commerce platforms are on the rise. Safaricom’s Digifarm is providing small farmers with access to finance, as well as advice and information – all on mobile. Liquid Telecom has also partnered with Twiga Foods, an online business-to-business food market, to improve farm productivity using different agricultural sensors, such as a weather station, soil moisture, and temperature probes.
A brighter future
Kenya has all the ingredients to fast-track digital transformation. It has a young, tech-savvy population with a passion for learning, and an established government capable of supporting major IT projects. Our mobile platforms are empowering people with financially inclusive services, while connectivity is beginning to reach every corner of the country. At this rate, despite the difficulties of 2020, Kenya’s digital future looks bright. Get in touch with us if you’d like to find out how we can help your business further its digital journey.