By Sam Charoz
While Africa’s quest for becoming a global ICT destination appears bright, Tanzania does not want to be left behind. It is stepping forward from the shadows – becoming an actor, instead of just an audience. Private firms have come in to enhance the country’s ICT reach by setting up a tech and mobile hub in the heart of Dar-es salaam.
Kinu-hub, a privately operated open space targets the tech community to nurture innovations capacity building and co-creation. Initial seed funding came from Google, SEACOM, and INDIGO Trust among others.
Introduction of Tech Hubs in Tanzania
Tanzania is grappling with a poor infrastructure, poverty and low literacy level but with a persistent record of calm in the country, the country’s headed to make its mark regionally as ICT growth increases.
Since 2008, the Tanzanian government spent more than 250 billion Tsh to lay out the fibre optic submarine cables. The Chinese government helped by giving a soft loan of upto $170 million for the same.
With this works already in place it is likely that there’ll be a significant decline of internet tariffs in major cities and around the country.
Tanzania is still among one of the Sub Saharan states with low internet penetration in the region but this number keeps changing as time moves.
“ The country has a population of 46 million people with an 11 % mobile subscription, this accounts for almost 5 million people of the total population, and this a technological dynamic that shifts by time” says Patel Khan, an internet consultant based in Dar es salaam.
If the introduction of the hubs in Dar is anything to spark technological growth then the timing is right.
“ If you have seen across Sub Sahara Africa, we are more technically prepared more than ever, as of now, Vodafone, Airtel and Tigo among other service providers have a solid following here, the mobile transfer app is active in the country young men like Alex Minde are among notable innovative minds that should bring this country into the technological arena” Patel adds.
Tanzania, compared to other states that have a larger internet and mobile penetration like South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria is also heavily dependent on mining and tourism.
But according to experts this is likely to change soon.
Progress in ICT
“ For your information since the year 2000 the country’s economy has been showing a firm growth of 5% -8%, these are not fictitious reports but valid information backed by the World Bank” says David Mrisho, an economic analyst.
According to him though the country has been having a laid back approach to matters that effect change and social undercurrents in the country, there’s still progress.
“ You will realize that this is one of the most peaceful state in the region, other countries like Kenya, have their own political challenges to deal with, Uganda now is plagued with the problem of funding insecurity in Congo, and Rwanda has made significant progress but look at the dark cloud of M23 Rebel hanging on its back” Mrisho adds.
He believes the ICT sector has been ignored over the years but now with the help of private firms pitching in their financial resource and technical knowhow the country’s likely to leap forward
“ Watch this country it’s the next stop over for international firms and startups we will see among other factors that the sustainable peace and preparedness of laying the fibre optic cable by the end of last year has prepared a good ground ripe for technology explosion” Mrisho says.
Stephanie Lucas, an IT student and app enthusiast who spends most of her time at Kinu-hub when she’s not in school, says that she has every reason to be part of this exciting arrangement.
“ When I am done with school, I have a plan of setting up my company, right now am learning about everything and anything that relates to my profession and where else am I supposed to be grounded than here at Kinu hub?”
The ICT sector is also likely to create jobs and contribute significantly on the economic growth of the state.
“ We will expect the introduction of Kinu and TanzICT to encourage a surge of energetic and tech savvy youth to now venture into the ICT sector.” Adds Patel Khan.
Tanzania’s Gross National Income is slated at US$ 540 as of 2011 according to World Bank unlike other countries that have a slightly higher margin in the region like Kenya and South Africa.
According to Luca Neghesti a co-founder of the Kinu- hub, the space was designed to speeding ICT growth in the region which in return, it’s hoped to spur innovative products to the rest of Africa and the world and hence create Tanzania tech brands.
“ This is a great opportunity to help the country make a name for itself and market it not only as a tourism destination but also as an app and technology mecca” he says.
TanzICT’s innovation space at COSTECH (Tanzanian Commission for Science and Technology) is also another innovation hub that aims at fostering app startups. It was funded through a bilateral arrangement between the Tanzanian and Finish governments.
Tanzanian Ujamaa concept – Swahili for brotherhood spirit that was popularized by the late president Julius Nyerere – jolted the country into a state of socialism with a strong inter-relational and cultural socio economic fabric, but on the contrary brought the country’s economic ability almost to its knees due to poor execution and lack of resourceful know how.
“ Tanzania is a very cohesive, community conscious country, Swahili is the default language of our country and if startups could tap into that social thread that was underused the future is really bright” says Patel Khan.
The space will allow users to have access to internet, data storage and backup. Other services provided will be a Knowledge Centre, ICT based workshops, app testing and webinars.
“ It is open to everyone in the tech ecosystem in the country, from coders to designers, programmers and tech-prenuers with an interest in creative innovation.” Says Luca Neghesti.
Like other mobile app startups sprouting in Africa countries, Tanzania’s efforts to tap into the increasing innovation and creativity through the mobile platform is yet to find a solid ground.
The coastal city still suffers from other logistical and technical shortcomings like frequent power outages but the will of the tech community to make most of the opportunity will likely inspire the future in app development and startup progression.
Sam is tech enthusiast who likes writing about technology. He is also a producer for Africa Journal a Pan African magazine program that airs in five continents and in more than 33 countries in Africa.