A programmer walks slowly down the stairs, holding his laptop in both hands as if steering by it. He passes a mural of Super Mario Bros, circa 1988, and into the entrance of iHub proper – a large, airy space, full of earnest young women and men working on their laptops. A coffee machine hisses in one corner. A quiet game of table soccer is under way. Silicon Valley? Not quite. This is the heartland of the Silicon Savannah, and one of many startup incubators dotting dusty Ngong Road in Nairobi, Kenya.
Everyone is here nursing the same hope – to make the next breakthrough service for Kenya’s enormous and growing population of mobile phone users. More than two-thirds of Kenyans own mobile phones, the highest rate in East Africa. The mobile phone has become Africa’s leapfrog technology – communication, commerce, computing and increasingly, internet access, all rolled into one cheap device.
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