Kenya - Country Commercial Guide
Information, Communications and Technology (ICT)

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2020-09-13

Overview

 

2017

2018

2019

2020 estimated

Total Local Production

N/a

*

*

N/a

Total Exports

N/a

*

*

*

Total Imports

620.15

625.07

717.10

*

Imports from the US

34.72

13.35

20.45

2.6

Total Market Size

620.15

625.07

717.10

590

Exchange Rates

103

99

101.5

105

 

NB: All figures in millions of USD with exception of exchange rate in Kenya shillings (Kshs) Applicable HS Codes: 370201,370205, 370207, 370232, 370244, 370500, 370790 851711, 851712, 851718, 851761, 851762, 851769, 851770, 852110,  852190,  852849, 852852, 852859, 852869, 852910, 852990, 853670, 854231, 854239, (Telecommunications equipment)

*Data not available
Total Market Size = (Total Local Production + Total Imports) – (Total Exports).

 

Data Sources:
Total Market Size: Global Trade Atlas
Total Local Production: N/A
Total Exports: N/A
Total Imports: Global Trade Atlas
Imports from U.S: Global Trade Atlas
Exchange Rate:  Central Bank of Kenya

According to the Business Monitor International (BMI), Kenya’s ICT market was valued at $717mn at the end of 2019 with computer hardware accounting for nearly 60% of the total ICT investments and the remaining balance from ICT services.  Kenya is at the forefront of technological innovations and is often referred to as the ‘Silicon Savannah’ of Africa.  The Government of Kenya (GOK) has invested heavily in the broadband sector. There are currently four undersea fiber optic cables that land off the coast of Kenya: SEACOM, TEAMS, EASSY, and LION2, which are the core drivers of the heavy fixed internet penetration in the country making it one of the highest, fastest, and most reliable in the region.

As mentioned above, the country is a regional leader in terms of internet connectivity, general ICT infrastructure investments, value added services, mobile money, and mobile banking services.  The country’s ICT sector is set to contribute up to 8% of the country’s GDP through IT-enabled services (ITES) and create 250,000 jobs by the end of 2020. Internet access has continued to spur economic growth and led to the government’s launch of the Digital Economy Blueprint, a framework to improve Kenya’s and Africa’s ability to leapfrog economic growth. The document is hinged on five pillars namely, digital government, digital business, infrastructure, innovation-driven entrepreneurship and digital skills.

A recent World Bank report showed Kenya’s ICT sector’s growth has outperformed every other sector, expanding by over 23% annually during the last decade only.  The sector is now six times larger than it was at the beginning of the decade and this remarkable growth can be attributed in part to globally acclaimed innovations such as the revolutionary mobile money transfer service M-pesa that allows users to send and receive money from anywhere in the world.  The service is widely used by Kenyans and accounts for nearly 80% of money transfers in the country.

While the sector is poised for continual long-term growth, it is estimated that total IT spending in Kenya will decrease by around 13.8% in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic related shocks hammer the global economy (BMI).

The Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology (MoICT) has the core responsibility for formulating, administering, managing and developing the information, broadcasting and communication policies in Kenya.  In May 2016, through an Executive Order, the Ministry was split into two state Departments; the State Department of Broadcasting and Telecommunications, and the State Department of ICT and Innovation. The Ministry was also merged with the Ministry of Youth Affairs in order to handle ICT skills and talent development among the youth.

The Ministry of ICT launched the National Broadband Strategy (NBS) 2023, aimed at transforming Kenya into a knowledge-based economy through the provision of quality broadband services to all citizens in the country.  By implementing NBS 2023, the government aims at increasing access to broadband coverage of 3G to 94% of the population by 2020, increase digital literacy in schools to 85%, expand broadband to the 47 counties, and obtain 50% digital literacy amongst the workforce.

All 47 counties now have ICT Roadmaps that align with the National ICT Master plan and local county development plans (CDPs).  Through the roadmaps, counties can provide the best, most cost-effective ICT-enabled services and resources to its citizens.  They have also helped county governments to make ICT investments that are consistent with global best practice and with the idea of shared ICT services with the central government and neighboring county ICT infrastructure.

The Information, Communications and Technology Authority (ICTA), is a State Corporation under the Ministry of ICT (MoICT) that was established in August 2013 and is tasked with rationalizing and streamlining the management of all Government of Kenya (GOK) ICT functions.  This includes providing its Ministries/Departments/Agencies (MDAs) with ICT standards and guidelines, domains, automation and digitization, shared services and information security.  ICTA is also tasked with overseeing and implementing various National ICT projects and programs such as E-citizen services (where the public has online access to a number of public services offered by various Government MDAs), the Digital Literacy Program, (a program borne out of the GOK’s vision to increase digital preparedness) and to transform learning in Kenya into a 21st century education system.

In order for Kenya to meet the critical ICT workforce needs and skills gap, the ICT Authority in collaboration with other ICT stakeholders has developed various skills programs to manage the challenge of the gap between industry talent needs.  These include the Presidential digital talent program and a Centre of Excellence (CoE) based at the University of Nairobi.  The Authority has also partnered with leading U.S. companies such as Oracle and Microsoft for skills development and programs include the E-government capacity building program and ICT skills training respectively.

According to the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), the sector’s regulator, availability of various technologies and services that offer faster and more reliable internet connections has continued to grow in the country with consumers embracing these services.  This has led to increased usage of internet/data services over the years.  According to the CA, the number of internet users was reported at 40 million as of December 2019.

A continued push by the government to provide more of its services online has contributed to demand-driven growth of the sector.  Some of the major government services that were automated include online applications for acquiring a Personal Identification Number (PIN) for tax purposes and the introduction of iTax, a platform where citizens are now able to file their annual tax returns online.

Telecommunications and Broadcasting: Kenya is currently one of Africa’s fastest growing ICT markets where ICTs have increased productivity in all spheres of production process and enabled expansion of skills, contributing to improved standards of living for Kenyans.  According to the Economic Survey 2020, the value of the telecom sector expanded by 10.3% from $3,870mn in 2018 to $4,270mn in 2019. 

Mobile/Cellular: Kenya’s GSM network has been impressive since the inception of mobile telephone services 25 years go.  There are currently four main providers: Safaricom with 71.2% of market share, followed by Airtel at 17.6%, Telkom Kenya at 7.4% and finally the recently Finserve Africa/Equitel at 3.8%.  Mobile cellular penetration increased by 7.9% to 114.70 per 100 inhabitants in 2019 which was a slower growth compared to 12.3% growth registered in 2018.   In the year under review, total mobile telephone subscriptions increased by 10.2% to 54.6 million in 2019.  International telephone traffic increased from 1,037.4 million minutes in 2018 to 1,054.0 million minutes in 2019.  Domestic traffic on the other hand, increased from 55.9 billion minutes in 2018 to 58.7 billion minutes in 2019.

Mobile Money: Mobile money subscriptions decreased from 31.6 million in 2018 to 29.0 million in 2019 due to reevaluation of the platform.   Total transfers through mobile money grew by 9.1% from $3,984mn in 2018 to $4,346mn in 2019.

Fiber Optic Coverage: Every county headquarters has been reached by the National Optic Fiber Broadband Infrastructure (NOFBI) in addition to other fiber-optic cables owned by private companies, Kenya Electricity Transmission Company and Kenya Power.  Total wired subscriptions rose by 40.9% to 427.7 thousand largely due to growth of fixed fiber optic subscriptions, which expanded by 52.9% to 268.8 thousand in 2019.  Fixed broadband has continued to expand in the last four years due to its growing preference among businesses and homes.  In 2019, Fiber-to-the-Home (FttH) subscriptions rose by 56.2 % to 203,038 customers in 2019. Similarly, penetration of Fiber-to-the-Office (FttO) grew by 43.3 % to 65,715 subscriptions in 2019.

International Internet bandwidth: The total international Internet bandwidth leased in the country increased by 16.1% to stand at 6,241.84 Gbps at the end of December 2019, from 5,374.02 Gbps recorded during the previous quarter.  This increase was attributed to the additional bandwidth lit by TEAMS with an aim of meeting its customer’s increasing demand for bandwidth.  The total utilized bandwidth capacity increased by 80.3% during the quarter to stand at 2,720.26 Gbps, 35.1% of the bandwidth was sold within the country and 64.9%outside the country.  The utilized satellite bandwidth on the other hand declined by 48.2% to record 2.70 Gbps.

3G/4G Coverage: In 2019, the geographical coverage for 3G is 17% with 78% of the population covered, while 4G coverage reaches 37% of the population and 15% of the surface area.  U.S. companies such as Alphabet’s Google Loon have continued to invest in the sector thereby increasing data coverage to the underserved parts of the country.

Internet Domains: Total registered domains grew by 9.8% to 94,166 in 2019.  Domains used by government entities and companies rose by 12.5% and 12.1% to 565 and 87,243 in 2019, respectively.  Registered domains under mobile content, network devices, and information users declined by 77.8%, 65.3% and 65.0%, respectively in 2019.  The decline may be attributed to changing to other domains such as the Second Level Domains (SLDs) or failure to renew website due to business closures.  In the year under review, SLDs which was introduced in 2018 increased by 6.1% to 94,166 SLDs in 2019.  Enhanced uptake and use of subdomain names as a result of awareness on the benefits of use, led to the doubling of domains under information content, mobile content and those used in network devices.

Broadcast Services and Subscriptions: The number of Frequency Modulation (FM) radio stations stood at 173 while Free to Air television stations were 75 in 2018.  The number of digital signal distributors in the country remained at 5 Digital Terrestrial Televisions Set-Top Box (STB) subscriptions stood at 4.5 million. Cable TV subscriptions declined by 5.6 % to 160,200 while direct to home satellite subscriptions expanded by 14.6 % to 1.3 million subscribers in 2019.

Newspaper Circulation and online Newspaper Readership: The circulation of daily English and Kiswahili newspapers declined by 10% at the end of 2019 due to online readership of newspapers.  Similarly, the number of weekly English newspapers in circulation decreased by 5.9 % over the same period.  However, the average online readership of e-newspapers went up by 23.1 % in 2019.

Regulation

 The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA)  is the regulatory authority for the communications sector in Kenya.  Established in 1999 by the Kenya Information and Communications Act, 1998, the Authority is responsible for facilitating the development of the information and communications sectors including broadcasting, cybersecurity, multimedia, telecommunications, electronic commerce, postal and courier services.  The Authority licenses telecommunications operators and  service providers as well as monitor their performance on a continuous basis to ensure that they discharge the obligations as stipulated in their licenses in line with the provisions of the Kenya Information and Communications Act, 1998 and the Kenya Communications Regulations, 2001.

CA is currently implementing a new system to regulate the frequency spectrum across the country.  The system promises to be a critical regulatory tool that will facilitate efficient planning and utilization of spectrum resource in view of increasing demands between fixed, mobile services, and broadcasting. The Communications Act, 1998, also mandated CA to develop a national cyber security management framework through the establishment of a national Computer Incident Response Team (CIRT) to manage all cybercrime cases.  The KE-CIRT is currently domiciled at the CA.

In November 2019, the government passed a new Data Privacy Law.  The law saw the establishment of the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, whose role will be to oversee the implementation of and enforcement of the Act.  The Data Privacy law further provides guidance on data processors and data localization criteria.

In June 2020, the Finance Bill 2020 introduced a new Digital Services Tax (DST) on income from services provided through a digital marketplace in Kenya at the rate of 1.5% on the gross transactional value.  According to new Act, the digital services upon which DST shall be applicable shall include: streaming and downloadable services of digital content; transmission of data collected about users which has been generated from such users’ activities on a digital marketplace, however monetized; provision of a digital marketplace, website or other online applications that link buyers and sellers; subscription-based media including news, magazines and journals; electronic data management including website hosting, online data warehousing, file-sharing and cloud storage services; supply of search-engine and automated helpdesk services including supply of customized search engine services; tickets bought for live events, theatres, restaurants, etc. purchased through the internet; online distance teaching via pre-recorded medium or e-learning, including online courses; and any other service provided or delivered through an online digital or electronic platform excluding any service whose payment is subject withholding tax under section 35 of the Act.  The U.S. Commercial Service in Kenya is monitoring the potential role out of the DST.

In August 2020, the Ministry of ICT gazeted a new law requiring foreign companies to have 30% local shareholding, a move that has been seen as a major setback for long term foreign investments into the ICT sector.  The new law further states that all government ICT procurement processes will give preference to local ICT companies in the award of tenders, including sectors like Defense and Security.  Further, where local businesses cannot fulfil tender requirements, foreign companies will now be required to transfer skills and personal to local firms. Foreign companies have until August 2023 to adhere to this requirement.

 

Key ICT Sector Policy Drivers

Kenya National ICT Policy: The MoICT recently launched the Kenya National ICT Policy that outlines requirements for the design, development, acquisition, deployment, operation, support and evolution of public and private ICT sector.  It defines the current and forward-looking position of the government on various areas of the evolving and emerging technology landscape in Kenya.  The policy identifies key focus areas which are: 1. Mobile first, 2. Market, 3. Skills and Innovation, and 4. Public Service Delivery.

Mobile First:  This covers investments in the infrastructure needed for work such as data centers, hardware, software, telecommunications, networks and broadcasting.  It seeks to create an enabling environment for the local assembly and manufacturing of devices.  The policy will strengthen payments and logistics infrastructure and stimulate growth and adoption of local e-commerce platforms with global reach.  It creates a provision of trusted security and certification infrastructure for all electronic communication and transactions.  The policy also promotes accessible news and media platforms both off and online, and affordable marketing and advertising platforms.

Market: The policy aims to increase the overall size of ICT contribution to the digital and traditional economy to 10% of GDP by 2030.  In doing so, the policy will provide a blueprint for creating things - infrastructure platforms for sellers and buyers; rules - carefully crafted rules that ensure that there is fairness in the market place, that transactions are honored, contracts and agreements are enforced, and that that scarce national resources such as spectrum and rights-of-way are fairly allocated; money - use of ICT to enable more people to make more money faster.  Money, technology and people are the drivers of the digital economy.  By mirroring the physical entities used in business, such as bank notes, land titles, certificates and so on with digital equivalents, business can be assisted to move much faster since it is no longer limited by the time it physically takes to move a business item from one geographic location to another. It is the GOK’s goal to give every Kenyan the opportunity to earn a good living by utilizing the digital infrastructure in which the government is investing.

Skills and Innovation: The policy outlines a careful plan designed to jump-start a self-supporting ecosystem that will produce world-class research, technology products and industries.  The technology environment is changing fast and Kenya needs to not just keep up but to lead the charge.  In order to ensure that Kenya is on the right track, the MoICT will every two years reassess research and development priorities and set five new technology goals.  The government will fund investment in the selected new technologies, encourage the private sector to focus on the identified research and investment priority areas and help create skills in those technologies by funding scholarships, grants, challenges and innovation awards.

Public Service Delivery: The policy states that all government will be efficient and open, and all government services must be available online, and that every Kenyan has online access and that government services are delivered quickly.  In order to achieve this the policy requires that: service charters be published by the public sector and citizens sensitized about them; all government services be easily accessible to all citizens using their mobile devices anywhere and anytime; procurement and tender processes be electronically published and open to all; revenue collection to be transparent and accountable; all arms of government implement and manage locally built back-end and front-end systems to deliver services; E-services are provided on platforms that are secure from fraud and breach of privacy of personal information; all government systems currently developed and all future systems be integrated with each other; Kenyan data remains in Kenya, and that it’s stored safely and in a manner that protects the privacy of citizens.

The Digital Economy Blueprint

The Digital Economy Blueprint, presents a framework to improve Kenya’s (and Africa’s) ability to leapfrog economic growth. The blueprint is based on the national priorities as articulated by Kenya Vision 2030 (Vision) and the Big Four Agenda.  The Vision aspires to make Kenya a globally competitive and informed society that effectively participates in the knowledge-based economy, and it also identifies ICT as a key enabler in the achievement of economic pillars and a critical factor in driving the economic, social and political development in our country.

The blueprint identifies five key pillars as foundations for the growth of a digital economy.  These pillars are: Digital Government; Digital Business; Infrastructure; Innovation-Driven Entrepreneurship and Digital Skills and Values.  The Blueprint also highlights the cross-cutting issues that need to be considered for the success of a digital economy.  According to Kenya President Kenyatta, the Blueprint serves as one of Kenya’s contributions in championing the growth of an African-wide digital economy for all of Smart Africa Alliance members.

Leading Sub-Sectors  

Computer Hardware: Computer hardware accounts for nearly 60% of the IT market in Kenya.  Total computer hardware sales were at $409mn at the end of 2019.  With the global pandemic forcing millions of Kenyan students and employees to study and work remotely, the demand for personal computers is expected to continue to rise.

Consumer Electronics and Smart Devices: The consumer electronics market is expected to register double digit growth by the end of 2020.  With the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of smart devices such as tables and smart phones continues to grow.  U.S. mobile devices are available and competing for the middle to upper income brackets, with U.S. brands like Apple now being used widely in the market.  However, the lower- to middle-end of the market is price sensitive, resulting in wide use of cheap and often counterfeit mobile devices that are easily available and often sold as original devices to unsuspecting customers.  In a move to fight the growing counterfeit problem in the sector, the GOK switched off all counterfeit phones from the GSM network crating market for genuine phones.  ADSL equipment will continue to have a market as homeowners and apartment owners continue to install Internet services in existing buildings to build their attractiveness to potential tenants.  Smart phones and smart devices are also expected to have significant sales as the largest internet population consists of teenagers and young adults who have adapted to accessing the Internet on handheld devices.

Software: Software solutions are expected to rise with the huge demand for computer hardware and computer systems for various industry verticals.  Cybersecurity software will also be required to secure data and online applications for both the government and its citizens.  Banks and service providers will also continue to invest in various cyber solutions to address cybercrime and cyber security vulnerabilities.

Fixed Data and Mobile Data: Growth in Kenya’s fixed and mobile data segments sector is strong and will continue to grow demand for telecommunication technologies, especially 3G/4G or mobile data enabled devices that support machine to machine solutions.  Cellular telephony remains the fastest growing telecommunications sub-sector.

Services: The IT services market has been on an upward trajectory as more small and medium size businesses are entering the online space via creative company websites.  A recent report from the Communications Authority of Kenya puts the number of total registered domain names at 62,215 with “. co.ke” (companies) holding the highest share of 92.83%.  The adoption of e-commerce has driven revenues for most businesses with some only holding virtual offices as they conduct their trade through online and mobile platforms.  The disruptive use of social media in marketing has driven the uptake of data services, both fixed and mobile.

Mobile payments: Mobile money continues to be a huge market in Kenya with nearly 95% of mobile users having access to one or more mobile payment platforms.  More public sector and state agencies, utility companies, and various service providers have integrated mobile money platforms with their core banking applications making it convenient for end users to make payments.

Applications: In addition to mobile money, services that rely on 4-digit SMS short codes and GSM USSD (simple, menu-driven interfaces that allow users to work through multiple options along a decision tree on basic mobile phones) are now ubiquitous in Kenya.  These mobile interfaces, combined with open source technology platforms such as RapidSMS and Ushahidi that facilitate bulk information distribution and crowdsourcing, provide simple and effective tools for innovation across a variety of products and services. Other USSD products are in Agribusiness, Healthcare, Public Information Sharing, to connect users (e.g. farmers to traders, mothers to community workers etc.). 

Cybersecurity platforms: Online crime in Kenya has increased significantly in the last few years due to the rapid digitization of the financial sector and more online payment transactions by Kenya citizens.  Organized crime has been quick to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Internet, particularly the growth in e-commerce and online banking.  Online criminal groups target individuals, government institution networks to steal personal information in bulk to profit from the compromised data available to them. 

Opportunities

ICT has been a critical enabler in the achievement of Kenya’s Vision 2030 and will play a central role in supporting the country’s “Big Four “agenda and other sectors. We see opportunities for U.S. firms in various cross-cutting sectors.

COVID-19 ICT solutions: The Government of Kenya has identified ICT as a key enabler and economic driver.  In the wake of the pandemic, the Ministry of ICT appointed a COVID-19 ICT Advisory Committee was through Gazette Notice No. 3236 on April 21, 2020 to co-ordinate ICT specific responses to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond in Kenya.  The Committee chaired by the CA’s Director General continues to seek private sector partnerships in providing innovative solutions for the following: Health, the Economy, Food, Livelihoods, Logistics/Transport and Security.

Digital Economy: According to the 2019 Kenya National Economic Survey report, the value of the ICT sector expanded by 12.9% from $345.6mn in 2017 to $390.2mn in 2018, driven by growth in the digital economy. Kenya’s Digital Economy Blueprint (see above) highlights various key pillars that present commercial opportunities for U.S. companies.

Education sector:  The Digital Literacy Program (DLP) commonly referred to as DigiSchool is a program that was borne out of the Government of Kenya’s vision to make sure every pupil is prepared for today’s digital world.  The program introduces primary school children, beginning with those in lower primary, to the use of digital technology and communications in learning.  DLP is targeted at learners in all public primary schools in Kenya and will cover all the 23,951 primary schools, and nearly one million Class One pupils, with a combination of the use of technology, content and teaching, to transform learning in Kenya into a 21st century education system.  The Education Broadband Connectivity project is another holistic, multi-faceted and national approach to internet connectivity for the nation’s and tertiary college institutions below university level is recommended.  This is envisaged to include: the identification or creation of internet ready (“e-ready”) schools and institutions in each county.  In particular, a focus will be secondary schools that are already teaching the computer studies curriculum that will be examinable at the end of their four-year studies. the provision of necessary ICT training to the teachers in participating institutions to ensure that they are well prepared to make use of connectivity; provision of broadband connection and support to the education cloud and learning management system  that established by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD).  This will facilitate ready access to digital content developed by KICD as well as to other approved local or international education content and resources; and technical support to ensure that the connected schools are not hindered by technical problems from the full benefit of broadband connectivity.  Both hardware and software components will be needed to support this ambitious project.

Healthcare sector: Health IT continues to gain momentum as the government of Kenya rolls out it’s eHealth strategy.  The Ministry of Health (MoH) has a well-defined eHealth strategy (2016-2030) that identifies five main areas of focus and implementation: Telemedicine; Health Information Systems; Information for Citizens; mHealth, and eLearning. With the COVID-19 pandemic posing major challenges in Kenya’s healthcare systems solutions for logistics and transportation of critical drugs and tests, contact tracing applications, patient monitoring and others will be required by the public health facilities as well as private hospitals.

Cybersecurity: A new Interpol report released in August 2020, on online organized crime in Africa shows how digitization is making it easier for criminals.  In Africa, Interpol ranks Kenya among the countries where transnational criminal organizations operate.  The report estimates that Kenyans lost $210Mn to cyber and cyber-enabled crimes in 2017.  Kenya has been in the spotlight of the U.S Federal Bureau of Investigation as a source of scams and destination of funds obtained from cyber financial fraud.

The National Kenya Computer Incident Response Team/Coordination Centre (KE-CIRT/CC) is mandated to offer technical advice on cybersecurity matters nationally and coordinate response to cyber incidents in collaboration with relevant stakeholders.  The National KE-CIRT/CC detected 33,747,678 malware threat events at the end of March 2020 as compared to 34,854,959 at the end of December 2019 over a quarterly reporting period.  In response, the National KE-CIRT/CC issued 1,559 cyber threat advisories.  The increase in the number of advisories given on botnet/DDoS attacks, online impersonation, online abuse, website application attacks, and other vulnerabilities provides opportunities to U.S. companies.

Key Government Institutions in the ICT Sector:

Web Resources

Communications Authority of Kenya

Business Monitor International

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics Economic Survey 2020
ICT Authority (ICTA)

Ministry of Information Communication and Technology

Kenya Cybersecurity Incidence Report Team

For More Information please contact:
Janet Mwangi
Commercial Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service, U.S. Embassy Nairobi
U.S. Department of Commerce | International Trade Administration
Tel: +254 (20) 363-6725; Janet.Mwangi@trade.gov