IBM’s New Research Lab – Nairobi, Kenya

Ginni Rometty meets with Mwai Kibaki, President of Kenya

Ginni Rometty meets with Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki, August 2012

The African continent accounts for 14 percent of the world’s population and is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. With a growth rate expected to average 7 percent annually over the next 20 years, Africa is poised to become a leading source of innovation in a variety of industries. To further enhance the scientific and technology base on the African continent, IBM Research will open a new lab in Nairobi, Kenya.

IBM Research – Africa will be IBM’s 12th global laboratory and the first science and technology research lab on the continent conducting both applied and far-reaching exploratory research. IBM Research’s presence in Kenya will encourage and strengthen an innovative culture, and engage local entrepreneurs and innovators to develop solutions to the challenges faced by the people of Kenya, the surrounding region and other fast-growing markets around the world.

“ IBM continues to expand its operations in key growth markets and we plan to lead the way by bringing Africa into our global network of IBM Research laboratories. ” Dr. John E. Kelly III, IBM senior vice president and director of IBM Research

picture of IBM Research lab locations across the globe, including the new lab in Africa

Focus areas

One particular issue across Africa is the inability of multiple government organizations to communicate with one another and share information. To that end, IBM Research – Africa will work on Next-Generation Public Sector solutions so that information is automatically collected and analyzed from various sources to improve planning, scheduling and tactical decision making within and between agencies. Armed with the right information technology, government agencies can reduce the cost of social services, improve efficiency and productivity, deter fraud and abuse, improve citizen access to services and enable digital interaction between citizens and the public sector.

Nairobi is currently home to more than three million inhabitants, and the population is expected to grow to over five million by 2020 as migration to urban areas continues. With this large population growth it’s necessary to better manage and reconcile the various systems within the city. IBM Research – Africa will initially focus on two of these systems – water and transportation.

Using multiple data sources, analytics and models, IBM Research will develop a complete understanding of Kenya’s water system and optimize the use, storage, safety and distribution of the country’s water supply. The use of predictive analytics also has the potential to solve traffic congestion in Nairobi by using real-time insights to model and anticipate traffic jams. IBM’s recent global Computer Pain Survey of 15 cities ranked Nairobi as the fourth most congested in the world.


IBM views creating science and technology leaders of the future as a key part of its research mission. However, a skills shortage is hindering innovation and leadership of new industry in Africa. In order to help universities produce highly-qualified and technically skilled graduates, IBM Research – Africa will establish a new resident scientist program for schools in Kenya and other African countries. These applicants will be top-tier scientists and researchers from pre and post-doctoral backgrounds, as well as from academia, government or industry, and will work side- by-side with IBM researchers in the lab.

Dedication to Africa

IBM has had a direct presence in Africa for more than 60 years that today spans 20 countries, including Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. The recent opening of IBM Research – Africa is just one of many ways in which IBM is investing in Africa and developing its economic capacity.

Back in March, Nairobi beat 140 other cities around the world to become one of IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge winners. The initiative is a three-year, 100-city US $50 million program and is IBM’s single-largest philanthropic outreach. In addition, through 2015, IBM will send nearly 600 employees to Africa as part of the Corporate Service Corps, an employee volunteer program modeled after the U.S. Peace Corps.

IBM recognizes the huge potential impact of research and smarter systems in helping to build Africa’s future.

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