Tech Tourism was such an alien term to most people till Zucks came to Nigeria last August. His visit created so much buzz and more exciting was the fact that he came like a thief in the night. No jokes. Absolutely no one knew about his potential visit (well except the people involved with the purpose of his visit) and he seemed to have an amazing time. He didn’t come in to see any waterfalls, visit beaches or any attractions. He came to see the Silicon Valley of Nigeria;
“I’m meeting with developers and entrepreneurs, and learning about the startup ecosystem in Nigeria. The energy here is amazing and I’m excited to learn as much as I can”. – Mark Zukerberg
After this visit, we learnt that tech tourism was the latest travel craze and people, geeky or not, flock San Fransisco to visit the tech giants in Silicon Valley.
“But now the locals are noticing an increase in tourists deliberately visiting the valley, almost as a sort of digital pilgrimage, and San Francisco companies are scrambling to cater to this new demand”. – www.ibtimes.co.uk
Back in Africa, Nairobi is without a doubt the leading tech cities in Africa and when we heard our guest nomad visited solely for tech tourism, we knew we had to share his story. This story is totally different from the typical Nairobi experience documented here. It’s different to see people go to Kenya for something other than the Safari and we hope you enjoy his story because we sure did.
“So you guys think you could come here, steal all our tech jobs and run away, and by the way, what the hell is tech tourism?” the Kenyan immigration officer exclaimed at us after filling on our VISA on arrival application form that we have come for tech tourism in Nairobi and are just going to stay for one week.
My friends, Babajide and Joel, and I who have deep interest for tech and solving human problems decided to visit Nairobi (a leading tech city in Africa) to learn, strike partnerships, copy, make relationships and of course have fun.
The Kenyan immigration officers saw us as strange as they hadn’t seen anyone who had come for tech tourism and they, in their words, “smelled something fishy” as we couldn’t even produce an invitation letter to back it up. After an hour of trying to convince them, the immigration officers started throwing signals to show that a bribe might be the saving grace else we might be sent back to Nigeria. We immediately made them understand we are Nigerians and we don’t pay bribes, believe me, that sounded very ironic.
To cut the long story short, we were allowed to pass and were given the VISA, checked into our hotel for the first night and moved into an Airbnb home for the next six nights where our amazing host made us Kachumbari and Pilau in exchange for Babajide’s photo shoot and editing of Jessica’s costumes.
The Kenyan tech ecosystem is pretty mature – built on trust, relationships amidst the startups and openness. Unlike the Nigerian founders, Kenyan tech founders are very open to share their stories, how they started, how they got funded, profit made, loss if any and mistakes. Our daily routine involved interaction with key tech players in the country.
Our first stop was Nexus CoWork space, a beautiful coworking space for startups providing power, internet, events and meeting rooms. We met interesting personalities, shared ideas and played games.
We then moved to the almighty iHub that has since 2010 been home to over 16,000 entrepreneurs across Africa with successful startups standing as results, we had a walk around the building visiting GearBox (a hardware hub) with intensive focus on research and development and providing solutions to human problems that are hardware-centric.
We later moved to Ushahidi – one of the founding startups in the city whose name cannot be brushed aside when writing the tech story of the city of Nairobi. The company is focused on data gathering and creating datasets for different purposes.
Nairobi Garage was the bomb having the biggest space amidst all the co- working spaces we visited, housing a lot of startups solving problems ranging from healthcare to entertainment and there seems to be a lot of energy in there.
We also visited Andela Kenya meeting with Joshua Mwaniki, the country manager who spoke to us about the passion Andela has to build world-class developers out of Africa and how Andela is planning to open up in other African countries. Fun fact about Andela: The name Andela was actually coined from the name MANDELA, the renowned former South African president.
The student community wasn’t left out in our splendid tour, as Nairobi University houses tech hubs like C4D and Fablabs. Strathmore University is also home to Ibiz Africa, where numerous inventions are being birthed and companies are growing.
Our meeting with the Giants like Oracle, Google, Microsoft and Metta was insightful as these companies are pooling all resources and network, investing in the city and showing immense believe and trust that the African investment would turn out to be a great one.
On a general note, the Nairobi tech ecosystem is good for maximum productivity as power and internet are quite stable but most importantly, the community is a place that fosters growth for techie, geek, entrepreneur that has all the basic ingredients to fulfill his dream.
On the average, the price for co-working spaces in the city go for 15,000KSH per month and that includes;
- a desk
- 24-hour access to the space
- High Speed Wi-Fi
- Meeting rooms
- Locker (Storage)
- Tea & Coffee
- Presentation Space
Interesting personalities like Eric of BRCK, Jessica Colaco of Brave Venture Labs, Hilda Moraa of Pezesha, Anne Njunguna of OB Analytics, Brenda Wangari of Techpoint.ng and Mark Ihimoyan of Microsoft were great tour guides and were open to share their networks with us.
It was an extremely enlightening and exciting trip. Though we did not get to do the cliché tourist activities, we had the opportunity to experience the night life in Nairobi. Tech tourism is an area of tourism and with the great minds in Nigeria, we can definitely key into it.