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WORKING ABROAD / DEC. 27, 2012
version 19, draft 19

Kenya to Host First IBM Research Lab in Africa

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 Press Release: August 2012

The government announced the opening of the first IBM research lab in Kenya. This makes Nairobi the premier location for IBM research in the African continent.

The lab is a collaboration between Kenya and IBM East Africa. Each partner will contribute USD10m over a period of five years.

President Mwai Kibaki and IBM Global Chief Executive Officer Ginni Rometty signed a memorandum of understanding to officially flag-off the setting up of the lab. ‘Kenya vision is to become the top ICT hub in the continent. IBM’s commitment to undertake the proposed research agenda will contribute greatly to our national priorities as part of Kenya’s Vision 2030 agenda,” said President Mwai Kibaki. ‘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.’

It is projected that the lab will not only drive innovation but help market Kenya as a leading modern services economy. The research agenda will be defined by both parties and will have a strong emphasis on solving domestic and African problems. The project will greatly benefit the momentum already established in cutting-edge mobile money technology, contribute to the creation of high-value jobs, and bring significant prestige for Kenya.

‘IBM continues to expand its operations in key growth markets and we plan to lead the way by bringing Africa into our global network of IBM research laboratories,’ said Dr. John E. Kelly III, IBM senior vice president and director of IBM Research. ‘We will work closely with leading African scientists and engineers from academia, government and industry to address some of their most pressing challenges and greatest opportunities.’

The Ministry of Information and Communications, through the Kenya ICT board, will implement the project.

Speaking on the partnership, PS, Ministry of Information and Communications, Dr Bitange Ndemo, said: ‘In today’s world, innovation is the main lever for a competitive national economy, is a source of employment, and has the potential to improve lives. 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.”  

He was speaking at a press briefing held at Kenya ICT Board offices, and attended by Paul Kukubo, CEO, Kenya ICT Board, Robert Morris, Vice President, Services Research IBM, Michael Browne, IBM Research, Director of Technical Strategy, Kumar Bhaskaranand, Program Director Technology & Strategy at IBM Research, Shanghai, China. Others were Mugo Kibati, Director General Vision 2030, Josphat Karanja, Head of Infrastructure, Kenya Education Network (KENET), Takreem El-Tohamy, IBM General Manager, Middle East and Africa, and Tony Mwai, Country General Manager for IBM East Africa. The research lab announcement followed the Konza Techno City Conference in which the country marketed its proposed tech to investors.

Under the partnership, Kenya will provide the necessary environment, the physical space, facilitate the lab set up, while IBM will provide senior specialists, intellectual property and will operate the lab as part of its world-class network of global research labs. Both partners are also expected to oversee governance structures at the facility jointly.

‘The Kenya ICT Board has various projects that will complement the work of the IBM lab. These are in software certification, open data, enterprise incubation and support for public sector digitisation,’ Mr Paul Kukubo, the CEO of Kenya ICT Board, said. ‘We see IBM as a great partner in advancing the agenda the board’s transformation of Kenya.’

The research facility is expected to be operational in September 2012 and will have its base in Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Nairobi.

Africa will be the 12th laboratory in the world-wide IBM network of labs, joining existing labs in Australia, Brazil, China, Japan, India, Ireland, Israel, Switzerland and the United States, as IBM continues to expand its research operations in key growth markets.

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