02 Feb 2024

‘On The Brink Of A Great ICT Revolution’: Kenya-Based Entrepreneur On The Country’s Tech Landscape

The take-off for Africa will happen in Nairobi, says businessman Alex Chesosi to FORBES AFRICA in a recent interview. He is a man on a mission, keen to see Kenya play in the big leagues when it comes to technology.

Chesosi, who wears several hats, is currently the Chairman of Intellimedia Networks Africa, a connectivity solutions provider. The US-based company has been making inroads into Africa, and Kenya is proving to be a key launch pad.

He acknowledges that the government, since the country’s independence, has made substantial investments in the information and communication technologies (ICT) space.

“[Former] President Uhuru Kenyatta contributed heavily towards Kenya accelerating investments in technology and his administration did cover good ground,” says Chesosi.

The current administration, led by President William Ruto, is primarily anchoring the new Kenya on an economic take-off, linked to bridging the digital divide. “I laud President Ruto. He has a plan to lay 100,000 kilometers of fiber optic [cable] and 25,000 hotspots,” notes Chesosi.

Connectivity is no longer a preserve of the affluent. Kenya is among the most robust countries, placing ICT at the center of the government’s agenda.

“ICT is the bedrock for Kenya’s next growth trajectory. Investment in connectivity will be a game-changer. We are on the brink of a great ICT revolution,” Chesosi says.

With fintech leading the charge in Kenya’s tech ecosystem, it has birthed multiple startups that are making inroads, not just on the continent but on the global stage as well. Kenya’s mass adoption of technology has positioned the country in the vanguard for the region’s prosperity.

“Laptops for school children in remote urban areas remains a priority for my administration. We shall continue to invest more in the education systems,” declared President Ruto when he addressed the nation as he led the celebrations for the 60th Mashujaa Day in Kericho County.

With the digital divide still being quite vast, investment opportunities abound for internet service providers in the region. “We need to set in motion more tax-friendly policies if Kenya is to attract the right foreign capital,” adds Chesosi.

Global businesses with a presence in Kenya include Google, HP, IBM as well as Microsoft. The latest entrant is Elon Musk’s internet company, Starlink, which is threatening to stir up market prices in the internet service provider sphere.

According to Chesosi, who has had a vantage point in seeing the strides the country is making, having worked in the aviation, fintech, and energy sectors for over 23 years, it is Kenya’s moment to shine on the global stage.

He believes that the country’s economy is now on a stable footing with Kenya’s GDP having grown at a rate of 5.4% in the second quarter of 2023.

For Chesosi, his latest foray supports the notion that deploying the internet to special economic zones (SEZs), school districts, distribution centers, smart cities, hospitals, transportation hubs, and manufacturing sites, through a private cellular network, will be vital in advancing Kenya’s internet penetration.

Leading the African arm of Intellimedia Networks, Chesosi admits that good governance and transparency will be a key driver in pulling in future investors.

“I see DRC as our next growth market. By all indications, I reckon that those who still see Africa as a dark continent will have to play catch up as this is the next growth frontier.”

In Chesosi’s words, new investments will only come if African business leaders up the ante and invest more in building solid companies that have the right checks and balances. Sitting on several boards, currently, including Baran Telecom Networks Kenya Limited and Genghis Capital, he has acquired a knack for figuring out what works.

“As much as tech holds a lot of promise, to break even requires initial, substantial, capital outlay. African businesses must be ready to walk the talk and raise the funding. That’s the only way we can safeguard our place on the global stage.”

Though major milestones are being registered on the ICT front, deploying a private cellular network sets up new players to take on the big boys in the game. “We have what it takes to transition Kenya to the future of technology. With support from the ICT ministry, as well as sustained interest by investors, Kenya can become a formidable force in the region,” quips Chesosi.