The Kenyan government intends to spend a reported US$14.5 billion on the creation of Konza Technology City or "Silicon Savanna," which Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki hopes will become Africa's answer to Silicon Valley. Recently underway, the ambitious venture will see the construction of a brand new city on 20 sq km (7.7 sq miles) of what is currently natural savanna, 70 km (43 miles) southeast of Nairobi.

Currently, the plan is for a compact city with a distinct semi-circular footprint within a triangular area of grassland. Though undoubtedly ambitious, the area is only an eightieth the size of the urban conurbation of Great London and is perhaps more accurately described as a town, at least in terms of scale.

A network of roads will fan out radially from the center of the notional circle, with the Central Business District (complete with district hospital) located in the midst of the development. Some 35,000 homes will be scattered throughout the city, while a science park and two technology parks will be created to the north and south. There will be a number of green spaces, including corridors along the protected seasonal rivers already at the site. Schools, universities, convention centers, hotels, mosques and churches are also planned.

State-owned Kenya Railways intends to connect Konza City to a new 180 km/h (110 mph) rail network between Mombasa and Malaba.

Construction will take place in four phases, meaning Konza will be brought on line a stage at a time. Phase 1, now underway, is the most significant phase and is scheduled to run until 2017, by which time the functional necessities of a working city should be in place.

As for the effect on the natural environment, the project website admits that Konza City will cause "loss of habitat and grazing area and the displacement and disturbance of wildlife currently located on site," with migratory wildebeest, antelope and zebra identified among species likely to be hit. A 2-km (1.25-mile) buffer zone and 6.2-sq km (2.4-sq mile) Wildlife Corridor are intended to minimize the negative effects, though the website, with eye-opening frankness, admits that the priority is "development over biodiversity conservation."

Meeting the city's estimated water demand of 100 million liters per day will not be easy. The in-progress Thwake Water and Sanitation Project has been redesigned to accommodate Konza City, which will require 60 km (37 miles) of water pipeline, a section of which will require pumping over the Kilungu Hills. Around two million liters per day will be provided by local boreholes, the drilling of which is presently underway. The completed city is expected to have a peak electrical demand of 675 MVA (so at least 675 MW). Though the Konza City website makes no allusion to new power stations, but does suggests the city can be supplied via the planned high voltage line between Mombasa and Nairobi.

It's claimed the city will offer world class communications infrastructure, thanks in no small part to The East African Marine System (TEAMS) submarine fiber optic cable instigated by the Kenyan government and the country's three other international fiber optic connections.

Unsurprisingly, some have questioned the economic wisdom of the scheme. Quoting more conservative total costs of $8.5 billion, based on 2011 figures from the Konza City website, an op-ed in Business Daily Africa argues that even if the project hits its target of creating 200,000 jobs in 20 years, the investment per job will be more than 20 times the average annual salary.

Source: Konza City