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Dubai offers sweet deal to Kenyan techies

Peter Okong’o @PeopleDailyKe

Kenyan technology innovators keen on virtual and augmented reality and artificial intelligence (AI) are being offered a sweet deal by the Dubai government.

As part of its efforts to attract investors from Kenya, Dubai is offering technology start-ups a collaborative workspace with special licences, one to test their innovations and the other a commercial operating licence.

In addition, they can tap into the $100 million (Sh10.2 billion) financial technology (FinTech) fund at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

In retrospect, the stalled Konza City project was supposed to provide near-similar incentives as part of Kenya’s vision 2030 plans to become a tech hub for Sub-Saharan Africa. Those plans are now on hold leaving many gifted tech innovators stranded.

However, International Data Corporation’s (IDC’s) latest forecast shows that ICT spending in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) is set to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of three per cent over the coming years to total $106 billion (Sh10.8 trillion) in 2022.

Enterprises will account for close to 61 per cent of that figure, with the telecommunications, finance, government, and manufacturing sectors continuing to be the biggest spenders.

But it is transportation (CAGR of 6.2 per cent) that will see the fastest growth over the 2017–2022 period, followed by healthcare and utilities (both six per cent).

Dubai is targeting Kenyan and other start-ups looking for crowdfunding or ways to tap into future digital technology to grow their business.

Partnering with DIFC to attract innovators from Kenya are Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP) AccentureDigital, Startupbootcamp and Innovate Finance. DIFC is also working with London Business School and Wharton at its academy.

Jyoti Lalchandani, the Middle East, Africa and Turkey group vice president of the private International Data Corporation’s (IDC) said that Kenya’s unique position as East Africa’s ICT hub gives local firms a unique advantage by starting out in Dubai.

Accenture offers a 12-week programme at the FinTech Hive housed by DIFC. This year alone, it received more than 300 applications from 45 countries out of which three per cent were from Kenya with Nigeria and Egypt accounting for six and four per cent respectively of the applications.

Participants in the programme have a unique chance to access crowdfunding thanks to 11 partner financial institutions.

Accenture Digital group chief executive Mike Sutliff said that the focus of investments in technology is the third platform or Cloud Technology to support virtual and augmented reality and AI, which are at the core of current tech innovation.

“Companies will increasingly have to exploit intelligent technologies to integrate themselves into people’s lives in order to model their products and services on their customers’ lifestyle choices,” said Sutliff.

Virtual and augmented reality technologies are transforming the way people live and work by removing the distance to people, information and experiences.

Investors from Kenya can also benefit from changes to Dubai’s data laws which have undergone a three-year review to allow for an open data platform. Data classified as “open” does not contain confidential information and can be shared with the public without access fees.

This includes data on traffic, health and education services, business activities such as trade licences and real estate and construction.

The new policy has made it easy for visitors and investors to access data gathered by Dubai government entities via a single mobile application designed for iPhone and Android devices. The policy is part of the government’s plans to become completely paperless by 2021.

According to the 2018 Dubai Data Economic Impact Report by KPMG, going paperless will save the Dubai government $6.6 billion (Sh671.7 billion) a year, revenue that can be directed into other projects.

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