IBM opens first Innovation Space in Africa at iHub, Nairobi

By Nixon Kanali / TechTrendsKE

IBM Innovation Space @ iHub. Kenyan entrepreneur, Allan Juma, Co-Founder of Bitsoko (left) with Jessica Colaco, Director of Partnerships @iHub and Kennedy Wariua, IBM Ecosystem Development Leader (right)
IBM Innovation Space @ iHub. Kenyan entrepreneur, Allan Juma, Co-Founder of Bitsoko (left) with Jessica Colaco, Director of Partnerships @iHub and Kennedy Wariua, IBM Ecosystem Development Leader (right)

Tapping expertise from IBM’s existing Innovation Centre and Research Lab in Kenya, IBM has announced a new innovation and collaboration space at iHub, Nairobi. This announcement was made during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit co-hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama in Kenya this weekend.

The new IBM Innovation Space @ iHub will be an open working environment for software developers and start-ups designed to foster entrepreneurial business growth and provide open access to IBM’s years of global expertise in technology-based innovation.

“Africa has millions of entrepreneurs who are experts in their own markets and who are now looking to technology to differentiate and compete on the global stage,” Nick Nesbitt, Country General Manager, IBM East Africa said.

“With the IBM Innovation Space @ iHub, we are extending our presence right into the heart of the local technical community so that entrepreneurs and start-ups have access to the tools and expertise to succeed in this exciting new era of Africa’s economic development.”

The Innovation Space @ iHub the first of its kind in Africa will provide early-stage entrepreneurs and start-ups with access to IBM expertise, education and technology tools – especially in the areas of cloud, Big Data analytics, mobile and security. IBM says the space is set to give a boost to the fast growing tech entrepreneur ecosystem in Kenya and beyond.

“iHub and IBM are passionate about supporting and empowering the success of African entrepreneurs,”  Erik Hersman, Co-Founder of iHub said .

“By setting up an IBM Innovation Space within the iHub community, we are giving local developers and start-ups unique access to IBM’s expertise, business connections and resources which will help propel them to the next level.”

Located inside the iHub building in downtown Nairobi, the Innovation Space will be open to any of iHub’s 17,000 members allowing them to drop in and get insight, advice and training from IBM experts in business and technology including scientists from IBM’s Africa research lab. IBM will also conduct monthly workshops and events for developers who will also be able to join the IBM Global Entrepreneur program through which they can qualify for free access to IBM Cloud services and get credits for Bluemix, IBM’s Platform-as-a-Service, as well as SoftLayer infrastructure.

One company set to benefit from the new IBM Innovation Space is Bitsoko – a digital currency start-up funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Bitsoko which has been working out of the iHub for the past 6 months has used Bluemix to develop a mobile wallet application based on Blockchain technology.

“There is a real buzz in Kenya and across Africa right now in the entrepreneurial community as technology and increased access to global markets is propelling us into a new era of African innovation,” said Allan Juma, Bitsoko co-founder and Chief Developer. “As a Kenyan entrepreneur with global ambitions, being able to interact with a company like IBM and discuss ideas, extend our professional network and access cutting-edge technologies is a potentially game-changing opportunity.”

This announcement came at the same time the company announced it was investing $60 million over three years to expand the Africa Technical Academy and the company’s Africa University Programme to over 20 African countries. Under this investment, IT professionals across the continent are set to benefit with new skills in analytics, cloud and big data technologies which are crucial to the next phase of Africa’s economic and social development.

The IBM Innovation Space @ iHub, Nairobi will be open from August 2015 and follows in the footsteps of similar spaces in New York, Boston, Uberaba (Brazil), Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Bangalore, New Delhi and Singapore. Nairobi marks the first IBM Innovation Space in Africa with others to follow in the coming months in line with IBM’s investment into innovation ecosystems across the continent.




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