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Report ranks Nairobi most innovative city in Africa

Nairobi has been ranked as the most innovative city in Africa, according to the Knight Frank Horizons Report.

The city beat 500 others on the continent including Cape Town, Johannesburg, Cairo, and Lagos to claim the top spot.

Nairobi emerged the top performer in three components, which included the number of start-ups, level of innovation funding and innovation infrastructure such as the number of research institutions.

“The city (Nairobi) offers a good balance between the number of research institutions, available innovation funding and innovation activity (including start-up activity), as well as ease of doing business,” the report said.

South Africa’s Cape Town was ranked second followed by Kampala (Uganda), Cairo (Egypt), Johannesburg (South Africa), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Lagos (Nigeria), Dakar (Senegal), Accra (Ghana), and Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) respectively.

“Innovation coupled with economic growth will drive the next decade of investment in Africa. Lower risk investors will likely favor cities with above-average innovation scores and a robust economy. These include Cairo, Egypt – the stand-out performer – and Johannesburg, South Africa. These cities have the greatest potential to remain economically resilient in the long-term despite undergoing short-term shocks,” said Tilda Mwai, Knight Frank Researcher for Africa.

Knight Frank expects the demand for data infrastructure to increase as more businesses shift their activities online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Cities that score higher for innovation but have less robust economies will attract those willing to take more risk, such as private equity investors. These cities include Nairobi, Kenya, Cape Town in South Africa, and Kampala, Uganda,” Mwai added.

The study interrogated over 100 data points applied to 29 capital cities from a long list of more than 500 cities in Africa to arrive at a unique innovation score.

The three components looked at were innovation activity such as the total number of start-ups, level of innovation funding and innovation infrastructure, such as the number of research institutions leading to Nairobi being the stand-out performer.

Another report compiled by the World Economic Forum had in 2019 ranked Nairobi as the world’s sixth most dynamic city.

Bengaluru, which is Karnataka’s (Indian State) capital city, topped the list while Hyderabad (Telangana), Hanoi (Vietnam), Delhi (India) and Pune (Maharashtra) followed successively.

Out of the top 20 cities, Nairobi was the only African city represented, and the study attributed this to a strong influence from the Asian community.