By Mark Kawalya
Nairobi has come out on top as the city most conducive to innovation in Africa and also holds a place among the top 100 globally in Knight Frank’s latest African Horizons Report 2021/22. The Kenyan city ranked ahead of Cape Town, which placed second and was closely followed by Kampala, in third place. Cairo and Johannesburg took the fourth and fifth positions, respectively.
The report further added that the emerging resilience from the pandemic for African cities will largely depend on their ability to innovate, develop social solutions for their residents and attract funding for these ideas.
The research was premised on more than 100 data points that were applied to 29 cities, compiled from a detailed list of more than 500 African cities, to derive each unique innovation score. The three-pronged approach considered innovation activity such as the number of start-ups, level of innovation funding and innovation infrastructure, which comprised the number of research institutions that enabled Nairobi to outpace other cities.
Knight Franks researcher Tilda Mwai notes that “Innovation coupled with economic growth will drive the next decade of investment in Africa. Lower-risk investors are likely to favor cities with above-average innovation scores and a fairly robust economy. These include Cairo, Egypt (the standout performer) and Johannesburg, South Africa. These cities have the greatest potential to remain economically resilient in the long term despite experiencing short-term shocks. The cities that score higher for innovation but have economies that are less robust will attract those willing to take more risk, such as private equity investors. These cities include Nairobi, Kenya, Cape Town, South Africa; and Kampala, Uganda. “
The report cited the growth of data centers as crucial in enabling the bursts of innovation that are being experienced in different African cities. According to the report, Africa’s data center markets are organized into three tiers. Tier one markets comprise cities such as Cape Town, Nairobi and Johannesburg, making up Africa’s leading data center markets. Cities in the most populous countries such as Kampala, Addis Ababa, Dar es Salaam make up Tier two markets. Tier three markets are characterized by low population cities with a considerably lower ease of doing business.
The ranking for the Top 10 Innovative Cities in Africa was as follows.
2 Cape Town
6 Dar es Salaam
10 Addis Ababa