Despite gains in the opportunities that leverage on technology in Kenya, the country is still a long way off from optimum. Kenya still has to focus on education and basic infrastructure, among others, if it is to maximise on tech opportunities, a study reveals.
According to research by the Institute for Business in Global Context (IBGC), Kenya’s tech gains need to also improve in the area of digital money, even with the success of M-Pesa.
In a report titled The African Leapfrog Index published with the Fletcher School of Massachusetts based Tufts University, six African countries including Kenya were surveyed. Rwanda, Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria and Ethiopia are the other countries.
“While Kenya has the seen the greatest amount of digital change over the past decade of all African countries studied and has over 80% Internet penetration, it can, for example, improve its education and skill-building capacity to enhance its ability to grow higher-skilled digital services jobs,” the report says.
It goes on to say, “Education, digital skills and healthcare must be prioritized; a Kenyan born today is likely to achieve at most 52% of his/ her potential if they survive to adulthood given the shortfalls in the education and health systems.”
Other areas where the report says the country needs to improve on is investments in basic infrastructure, which would reduce power outages and other disruptions, as well as build on overall reliability.
At the same time, barriers in the value chain, such as lack of credit, user experience issues, and informal economy challenges should be addressed, with agriculture and food & beverage sectors offering the best opportunities.
“Despite its leadership with M-Pesa, there is still enormous potential for the digitization of payments: cash accounts for 71% of Kenya’s total payments,” the research goes on to recommend.
The research did laud Kenya’s mobile phone penetration, finding that over 70% of Kenyans have a mobile money account, and over 75% of Kenyans aged 15 plus have made a mobile payment in the last year.
“During the past decade, Kenya has advanced quickly as a digital contender, with many innovative enterprises, e.g. M-Pesa, Ushahidi, M-Kopa, M-Tiba, etc. 200 digitized services are offered through Huduma Centres countrywide as well as an online self-service platform, E-Citizen,” IBGC said.
In the ease of creating digital jobs segment, the report found that Kenya’s institutions have enabled a favorable regulatory environment, and promoted a high use of digital payments. “The government has preserved internet freedoms and even harnessed social media to fight disinformation.”
The research also found Kenya to be home to a “Silicon Savanah”, and that Nairobi has a growing, tech-savvy population.
Along with Kenya, South Africa was characterised by the African Leapfrog Index as a country that is paving the way in tech on the continent. Ethiopia was designated as the nation with the potential for greatest digital gain, with Egypt and Nigeria referred to as states with opportunity for growth.