Meg Whitman, the billionaire tech executive nominated by Joe Biden as the new US Ambassador to Kenya, has revealed some of her plans for the role.
She spoke while appearing before the US Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy. Whitman emphasized Kenya’s position as a tech hub for the continent, disclosing that she would seek to foster partnerships involving US firms.
Her comments come at a time when US big tech is significantly expanding its footprint in Kenya. Microsoft in April launched an Africa Development Centre (ADC) site in Nairobi, one of two on the continent, and Google is also hiring for its upcoming Product Development Centre in the city – the company’s first such facility in Africa.
Visa also recently launched an innovation hub in Nairobi while Amazon reportedly has an AWS local zone in the pipeline.
“Kenya is well-positioned to be an African leader in information technology, telecommunications, and mobile banking and is open to partnering with the United States,” Whitman observed.
“Working with Kenya to assemble the infrastructure, connectivity, and expertise needed to help build the country’s ‘Silicon Savannah’ will be a big part of my mission, and an opportunity I hope numerous US companies will eagerly embrace,” she continued.
Whitman also stated that she would seek to counter Chinese influence in the country. Massive investments by China in Africa have been a growing source of concern in the West in recent years.
On the tech front, Chinese organizations have various key partnerships in place in Kenya. Huawei, for instance, is one of Safaricom’s network vendors alongside Nokia.
Safaricom has played a big role in the growth of Kenya’s tech ecosystem – most notably thanks to its global pioneering of mobile money through M-Pesa in Kenya.
The US has been pushing its allies to sever ties with Huawei. Huawei is also a key backer of the multi-billion shilling Konza City project, intended to create a well-planned smart city in Kenya driven by tech.